Objective: To identify the characteristics of New Zealanders who utilised primary healthcare services prior to the implementation of the New Zealand Primary Healthcare Strategy (PHCS).
Methods: This paper uses data from the 1996/97 and 2002/03 waves of the nationally representative New Zealand Health Survey to examine the relationship between individual, household and community characteristics and the utilisation of healthcare services by New Zealanders. Multivariate regression models are used to examine the correlation between particular characteristics and whether an individual visited a GP in the previous 12 months, the number of visits made to a GP in the previous 12 months, whether they reported needing to see a GP in the previous 12 months, but failed to do so, and whether they visited a secondary practitioner in the previous 12 months.
Results: Gender, age, and ethnicity are all found to be significantly related to healthcare utilisation, even when controlling for a fairly comprehensive set of characteristics. On the other hand, education, marital status, household composition, household income and community deprivation are found to be unrelated to healthcare utilisation. A strong relationship is found between employment status, health status and healthcare utilisation.
Conclusions and implications: We do not find any evidence of a relationship between socioeconomic status and healthcare utilisation after controlling for other measures of need. This and other findings suggest that the government subsidies in place prior to the implementation of the 2001 Primary Healthcare Strategy helped to ensure that user charges did not limit service utilisation in New Zealand for groups with lower socioeconomic status.