Health System In New Zealand

Health System In New Zealand

Find out about the publicly funded health and disability services available for tamariki and whānau in New Zealand.


Key points about the health system in Aotearoa

  • in the early years you and your child will need lots of help and advice about sickness and keeping healthy
  • it is very helpful to have a family doctor and practice nurse who get to know you and your child well
  • know where to go for medical treatment 
  • if you're unsure, call Healthline on 0800 611 116

Where to go for healthcare in New Zealand

In an emergency

If it is an emergency, dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help.

If you're near the hospital and the situation is serious but not life threatening, you may choose to take your child in your car. Make sure you know where your hospital's emergency department is.

Hospital emergency services operate 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can take your child to the emergency department without a doctor's referral. You may have to wait for some hours as emergency departments see people with the most urgent needs first.

Find a public hospital (Ministry of Health - Manatū Hauora website).

If it's not an emergency

If your child needs medical care but it is not an emergency, contact your family doctor to make an appointment.

If they need urgent care but it is not an emergency and your family doctor is not available, visit your local accident and medical clinic (A&M). If they cannot treat your child's illness or injury, they will refer them to your hospital's emergency department (ED) if they think your child needs urgent care.


Call Healthline if you're worried, unsure or want to ask a question.

If you need advice about a child who is unwell, call 0800 611 116 anytime.

Check KidsHealth for more about Healthline.


For COVID-19 health advice call 0800 358 5453 anytime. For COVID-19 vaccination advice call 0800 29 29 26 (8am - 8pm 7 days a week).

See KidsHealth's section on COVID-19.

Knowing when to seek help for your child

Sometimes families worry about missing a serious illness. Knowing your child and seeing a change in their behaviour could be the most important clue to how sick they are.

Check KidsHealth's advice about when to seek help for your child

Watch this video from Te Whatu Ora - Waitematā about where to go for help in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Watch the video in Chinese.

Watch the video in Hindi

Health services in New Zealand

General practice

It's free to enrol with a general practice. General practices can only enrol people who can access publicly funded primary health services. When you enrol, you may need to show proof of eligibility - such as your passport or birth certificate. You'll also need to sign an enrolment form.

Find a GP near you (Healthpoint website).

Find a Māori health provider (Ministry of Health - Manatū Hauora website).

Learn more about the importance of a general practice team for your child

Most general practices are part of Primary Health Organisations (PHOs).

Find out more about Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) (Ministry of Health - Manatū Hauora website).

After hours care

GPs are usually open business hours, Monday to Friday. Every practice needs to have arrangements for their patients to receive care outside these hours.

Check with your practice where to take your child if they need care outside working hours. (You might have to visit an after-hours accident and medical clinic or another practice.)

Find an accident and medical clinic (Healthpoint website).

Specialist care

Your doctor may refer your child to a hospital or specialist doctor for further assessment or diagnosis.

Specialist care is free through the public health system, but your child may go on a waiting list.

If you don't want to wait in the public system, you may wish to use a private hospital or specialist to get advice sooner. You will have to pay a fee for this, unless you have private health insurance.

Maternity care

Mothers of babies born in New Zealand can get free essential care during and after their pregnancy.

Find out more about maternity care in New Zealand.

Check the KidsHealth page on pregnancy and childbirth

Well Child Tamariki Ora

Well Child Tamariki Ora services, such as Plunket, support parents and their tamariki up to the age of 5. This is a free service for all children living in New Zealand.

Check KidsHealth for more information about the Well Child Tamariki Ora programme

The B4 School Check is a free health and development check for your 4-year-old. It's the final Well Child Tamariki Ora check.

Check KidsHealth for more information about the B4 School check


The National Immunisation Schedule is the series of immunisations that are free for babies, children and teens (and adults). The Schedule lists the immunisations and the age your child can have them.

It is important your child has their full course for continuing strong protection. Children need immunisations on time as delaying them leaves them at unnecessary risk of infection.

Immunisation schedule poster

Te whakatō i te kano ārai mate – te ārai tino pai

Check KidsHealth for more about immunisation

Disability services

There is a range of disability support in New Zealand.

Check KidsHealth for services that can support you and your child with a disability or long-term condition.

See KidsHealth's listing of New Zealand support groups for disabilities, health impairments, special needs and disorders.

Check out Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People's website.

Mental health services

Find out where to get help if your child or young person is having a mental health emergency.

Check out KidsHealth's section on emotional and mental wellbeing.

Dental care

Basic dental care is free in New Zealand for children from birth until they turn 18. Enrol your child as early as possible and keep taking them for regular dental check-ups.

Find out more about dental care on KidsHealth.

Check out KidsHealth's section on caring for your child's teeth.

Watch this video from Te Whatu Ora - Waitematā about health services for children in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Watch the video in Chinese.

Watch the video in Hindi

Cost of healthcare in New Zealand

Children aged 13 and under won't be charged:

  • a fee for visits at most general practices
  • a fee for after-hours services at participating clinics and pharmacies
  • the regular $5 prescription fee

There is usually a fee for casual patients, who aren't enrolled with a general practice.

Injuries are usually covered by ACC. There may be a cost to use some services at accident and medical clinics.

There is no cost to use a public hospital if your child is eligible. There may be a cost to some ambulance services in New Zealand.

Check if your child is eligible for free healthcare in New Zealand (Ministry of Health - Manatū Hauora website).

Watch a video about funded services in English, Chinese or Hindi (Te Whatu Ora - Waitematā).

Other useful information


New Zealand National Poisons Centre can answer questions about poisons, 24 hours a day. Phone 0800 764 766.


Watch a video about where to get medicines – available in English, Chinese and Hindi (Health Navigator website).

Language support

If you need language support, you can ask for an interpreter when you visit some health services.

Find out more about language support (Health Navigator website).

Complaints about services

When you use a health or disability service, you have rights. All people in New Zealand have these rights. If you are not happy with a health and disability service you receive, you have the right to complain.

See KidsHealth's page about children's rights in healthcare

See KidsHealth's page on young people's rights in healthcare

Check KidsHealth's information about health and disability services consumers' rights

This page last reviewed 09 September 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it