12 May 2010

Govt considers allowing GPs to refer patients for scan

4:08 pm on 12 May 2010

The Government is considering allowing GPs to bypass specialists and refer patients directly for MRI scans, after the late diagnosis of a Blenheim woman's brain tumour.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board says it has apologised to the woman after her symptoms in 2005 were not considered urgent enough to warrant an MRI scan.

In a report, former health and disability commissioner Ron Paterson criticised the DHB, saying New Zealand's health system is a postcode lottery, with the ability to access publicly funded services dependant on where a patient lives.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says there is a long-standing issue that different DHBs provide different levels of services.

Mr Ryall says the Government is considering allowing GPs to refer their patients directly for MRI scans as one way to help improve services.

The woman in her mid-20s, referred to as Mrs A, experienced pain and hearing loss in her right ear in late 2005.

Her GP and ENT specialist recognised the symptoms as serious but they were not considered urgent enough by the Nelson-Marlborough DHB to warrant a publicly-funded MRI scan.

The woman was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour, part of which has been removed.

In his report, Mr Paterson says the ability to access publicly-funded services depends on where a patient lives in New Zealand.

Mr Paterson says the Nelson-Marlborough DHB should apologise to the woman for breaching the Health and Disability Code and the board failed to provide her with reasonable care and clear and timely advice.

The Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board says it accepts its part in the late diagnosis of the brain tumour and has apologised to the woman.

The board's chief medical adviser, Andre Nel, says important information was missed during the woman's referral for an MRI and she was given false reassurance.

Dr Nel says the board accepts that health professionals did not work together in her interest.