Understanding our health system can be confusing and frustrating. In New Zealand there are over 700,000 people living with over 100 different kinds of arthritis, across all age groups – children, young people, working people, and seniors. 

The three most common forms of arthritis in New Zealand are OsteoarthritisGout Arthritis (also called Gout) and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Navigating the health system is an essential part of understanding and self-managing your condition. It is very helpful to understand the medical and self-management opportunities that are available to support you to live well with a long-term condition.

Your first point of contact with your GP will usually include a discussion about the issues and concerns that took you to the doctor. See how to talk to your GP.

Further tests and referral to other medical specialists or allied health professionals will depend on what form of arthritis your doctor initially diagnoses and how it is affecting you.

It is important that you know the name of the kind of arthritis you are diagnosed with.

Ask your doctor or practise nurse what form of arthritis it is. This will allow you to learn more specific information about your condition and it helps our arthritis educators give you meaningful advice when you look for support from us.

So who is in your health team?

This will vary but will include:

  • General practitioner – (GP or local doctor). Your GP is usually your main provider of health care and your first point of contact. Your GP can make referrals to specialists as needed
  • Practice Nurse – Can provide information and support coordinating your care with other members of your health team
  • Community Pharmacist – can help you understand your medication and how to use them safely and correctly
  • Arthritis Educators – Arthritis New Zealand has educators available who come from a range of health backgrounds and are available to support you to understand how the health system works, your arthritis diagnosis and how to live well with arthritis

Depending on your arthritis diagnosis, you also have some specialists in your health team:

Medical Specialists:

  • Rheumatologists – doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and medical treatment of joint, muscle and bone disorders
  • Musculoskeletal Specialists – doctors that assess and treat disorders of the Musculoskeletal system
  • Orthopaedic Surgeons – specialise in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of bone, muscle, and joint disorders

Allied health professionals:

Access to allied health professionals through the public system will vary across the country from DHB to DHB. Some access to allied health professionals may also be possible through some GP practices. Check with your GP or practice nurse in the first instance. Allied health professionals include:

  • Dietitians – are experts in food and nutrition and can provide advice about healthy eating for medical conditions
  • Occupational Therapists – can help you adapt your life to your condition, including activities of daily living and advice on useful aids or equipment
  • Physiotherapists – can advise on exercise and may also use treatments to keep your joints and muscles flexible
  • Podiatrists – specialise in conditions affecting the feet. They can help with information around footwear, nail care and shoe inserts
  • Psychologists – can help with tools to cope with difficult emotions and mental wellbeing 

For more information and support about any of the information in this article, please contact an arthritis educator using the contact form below.

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