District health boards have been told they will have to repay money allocated for a nationwide pre-school health check programme, unless they improve the way it is run.
Only 11% of the children eligible for the programme have received check-ups. Health Minister Tony Ryall has labelled the scheme "shambolic."
The B4 school check programme, which was rolled out last year, aims to identify any health, behavioural or developmental concerns which could impact on children's performance at school.
However Mr Ryall says the boards' performance in delivering the $9 million scheme has been appalling.
In Canterbury, one of the worst perfoming regions, only 5% of eligible children were checked by May this year.
Mr Ryall has written to the boards saying he expects them to return the unspent money.
He says the programme will be reviewed again at the end of the year when a decision will be made about its future.