Medical help

Where to go when you need health care in Aotearoa New Zealand

Key points about getting medical help

  • There's a wide range of health services in New Zealand.
  • As a result of the pandemic, and winter colds and flu, the health system is overloaded. 
  • When you or your whānau get sick, it's important to think about whether you really need to ask for medical help or if you can manage your symptoms at home.
  • The information below will guide you on what to do for yourself and then who to contact if you decide you need help.
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Place to go for non-urgent and urgent healthcare in New Zealand

Image credit: Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora

For most minor illnesses and conditions there are lots of things you can do to manage your symptoms at home. Make sure you have a few basics, eg, pain killers, plasters and antiseptic cream on hand.

Remember to test for COVID-19 if you a fever (high temperature), cough, runny nose, sore throat or breathing problems. If you test positive, read more about what to do next

Otherwise, we have information to guide you on how to look after yourself before asking for help. See our:

  • Winter illnesses topics for information about managing colds, coughs, sore throats and aches and pains.
  • Health A–Z section for information about specific health conditions
  • Medications section for advice about medicines
  • Hauora Wellbeing section for tips on exercise, mental health, managing long-term conditions and much more.

We also have a wide selection of videos on pages and a growing app library.

Your local pharmacy provides free on-the-spot advice about medicines and health concerns like coughs and colds and vaccinations. They also provide specific services, eg, treatment for urinary tract infections, blood glucose and blood pressure checks. Some pharmacies are open late and open 7 days a week. Read more about what pharmacists do or find a pharmacy near you.(external link)

Older couple discuss medicines with pharmacist

Image credit: Canva

If you have a non-urgent concern or don’t know if your concern is urgent or not, call Healthline 0800 611 116 24 hours a day / 7 days a week for free health advice. The Healthline team includes registered nurses, paramedics and health advisors, who are specialists in assessing and advising over the phone on any health issue, no matter how small. Interpreters are available.

Studies show we all do better when we enrol with a primary care provider (eg, a general practice team or nurse-led clinic) and have regular checks. Turning up with a long list of problems or only when you're really sick doesn't build the trusted relationship you need.

If you haven’t done so already, register with a doctor or nurse practitioner in your area, so you can have your own healthcare team. Other advantages of enrolling with a clinic are:

  • Lower cost care (and sometimes free care for high need areas).
  • Repeat scripts and phone or email advice.
  • The option of video and phone consults with a team who know you. Read more about telehealth.

Use this link to find a doctor or clinic near you.(external link) 

If you want help or advice on contraception, STIs or any sexual health queries, contact your local Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa(external link) clinic. Visits are free for New Zealand citizens or residents.

If your family doctor is not available there are 2 main options. One is an online consultation (also known as telehealth or virtual consultation), and the other is an in-person consultation at your local Urgent Care Clinic (Accident and Medical), or after-hours clinic. 

Urgent care and after-hours clinics

These clinics can provide urgent care for injuries or illnesses when you need to be seen in person or are likely to need an examination.  Find an Urgent Care Clinic(external link) online or call your general practice who will have a recorded message or somebody to advise on what to do. 

To learn more about the fees charged by a particular clinic, visit their page on Healthpoint.(external link)

Telehealth or virtual consultation apps

An increasing number of conditions can be assessed and treated through a telehealth consultation with a doctor, nurse, psychologist or other healthcare provider. This can be done through your phone or computer. Read more about the available options for virtual consultations. 

Ka Ora Telecare

An after-hours telehealth service is available to people living in, or visiting, rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. It's available 5pm to 8am weekdays and round the clock on weekends and public holidays. Phone or video consultations are available and can be booked through the Ka Ora Telecare website(external link) or by calling 0800 2 KA ORA (0800 252 672). A cost may be involved and you will be informed about this when you contact the service. Read more about the Ka Ora Telecare service(external link)

If it's an emergency, dial 111 (free) or go directly to your closest emergency department. Emergencies include anything that is life threatening, such as difficulty breathing, chest pains or uncontrolled bleeding, or when you have severe pain or other trauma. Find an emergency department.(external link) 

Treatment at the hospital is free, but if you go in an ambulance you will probably be charged for it. If you need one often it's a good idea to get a St John subscription.(external link) 

Examples of medical emergency situations

Image credit: Healthify He Puna Waiora


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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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