Guide to Healthcare in New Zealand

The New Zealand healthcare system has a very good reputation in general and public hospitals are well maintained and free, however the waiting list for treatment and surgery is huge which has led to an increase in private healthcare practices. Expats who are in New Zealand for less than 2 years are advised to get private healthcare insurance.

GPs in New Zealand

There are numerous GP clinics throughout New Zealand and most are run through the public health system but you can choose to go privately if you wish. Public Health GPs offer daytime surgery hours as well as emergency visits. You can choose to register with any GP you like and are free to change GPs if you are not happy with the service provided.

Visits to the GP cost around $25 to $30 if you are part of the PHO, otherwise charges can get as high as $60.

Primary Health Organisations

When you register with a GP you will usually also become a member of the New Zealand Primary Health Organisation (PHO).These PHOs cover a broad range of healthcare services such as counselling, screening, preventative measures and education. To enrol just ask your doctor or nurse for a form.

Private Healthcare

Southern Cross is the largest non-profit, private healthcare provider with almost half of all New Zealanders registered with them. Southern Cross also run their own hospital chain.


There are 40 hospitals in New Zealand altogether, some of which provide specialist treatment. Injuries resulting from an accident are treated free of charge for everyone, including tourists, in New Zealand. Emergency services are generally provided by St John New Zealand who rely on public funds and donations.


Again, much like the UK, most dentists in New Zealand charge for their services as they do not receive a subsidy from the government. Fees vary so it is worth comparing, but generally they tend to be higher than GP fees. Some District Health Boards will provide limited free treatment to people on low income.

Children and young people under the age of 18 receive free dental treatment but some specialist services such as orthodontist treatment will not be covered but some of the cost could be subsidised by the government.

Prescription Charges

If you are enrolled with the Primary Health Organisation you will be expected to pay a minimum of NZ$5 for subsidised medicines on prescription. For full prescription charges your bill may be nearer to $15.

Many health services for children are free, such as vaccinations, eye examinations, hearing checks and basic dental care as well as GP visits. Prescriptions are free for children under 6 years of age.


Ambulance services are subsidised and may not be free in all areas so it’s worth checking with your area. Most emergency call-outs resulting from accidents are free.

For all emergencies in New Zealand dial 111.

Find out about how the health system works in more detail with the official New Zealand Health Guide