Adventures of a Scottish GP in New Zealand

At the February meeting of the Stewartry U3A, retired Castle Douglas GP, Dr Lois Sproat, gave a fascinating insight into the New Zealand health system gained while she was a locum in New Zealand.

She had initially considered working in an area similar to Castle Douglas but finally decided to work for the Island Bay Medical Practice on the edge of Wellington City.

Dr Sproat said that she was fortunate to have a friend in New Zealand who advised her on taking up a position and helped with arrangements for accommodation and transport. As soon as she arrived in Wellington in early 2009 she applied formally for registration then started work a few days later as locum in the Island Bay Medical Practice and was there for some two months.

In the practice the arrangements for booking appointments was the same as in the UK but after the appointment patients had to pay a standard appointment charge. In the case of injuries or accidents patients could be covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation which was funded partly by employers and the Government. Payment had also to be made by patients for prescriptions ,blood tests and other investigations as well as consultations by specialists. As a result many people took out private medical insurance cover. There were also other schemes such as Care Plus for patients with long term conditions and a High Use Health Card scheme for patients who required regular prescriptions.

All patients, whether private or public had to go through a GP to see a consultant but GPs selected the specialists on a more random basis than applies in the NHS.

Dr Sproat found that there was considerable non-engagement with certain groups in New Zealand, for example the Maori population were likely to look to their traditional treatments before seeking medical help.

The Chairman, Dr Howard Brown thanked Dr Sproat for a most interesting talk.

The next meeting of the Stewartry U3A will be held on Thursday 19 March at 2.00pm in the Gordon Hall, Castle Douglas when Margot Currie will give a talk entitled “Hands to Speak”. This will be the final meeting in the Gordon Hall before meetings move to the Parish Church Hall, Queen Street, Castle Douglas. Details of future meetings can be found on