Secondary Care

Is a specialist level of care, and is often based in a hospital setting. Secondary health care treatment in New Zealand’s public hospital system is free if you are eligible. Patients are prioritised by urgency and when they are referred.

Being diagnosed with arthritis can be a stressful experience; it can change the way you do things every day, and it can take time to get your head around who and what needs to be in place to support you. Identifying who might be in your specialist health team is an important part of the journey to living well with arthritis.

How to see a specialist

Your GP/healthcare lead can refer you through the public system to a specialist for free care. Specialists in your secondary care team can also refer you to other specialists in different departments. Not all specialists are government funded. If you see someone through the public system, you cannot choose who you see, and you will go onto a waiting list. If you are on a benefit, you may be able to get funding for other costs involved in seeing a specialist such as travel expenses, parking, and prescriptions.
If you want to see someone sooner or see a specific specialist, you can pay for an appointment or use health insurance if you have it, depending on your plan. Your GP can make a referral to a private specialist of your choosing if required.


A Dermatologist diagnoses and treats skin conditions, including conditions affecting hair and nails. These can be psoriasis which can be associated with Psoriatic Arthritis and Spondyloarthropathy. They may prescribe medication, phototherapy, and topical creams. Visit the NZ Dermatological Society for more information.

Musculoskeletal Specialist

A Musculoskeletal Specialist diagnoses and provides non-surgical treatment for musculoskeletal system conditions (bones, muscles, cartilage, intervertebral discs, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue). Conditions may occur due to injury or be gradual due to the ageing process, for example, in Osteoarthritis. Visit the NZ College of Musculoskeletal Medicine for more information.

Orthopaedic Specialists / Surgeons

Orthopaedic specialists/surgeons specialise in diagnosing and surgical treatment of bone, muscle, and joint conditions such as Osteoarthritis. They are the only specialists who undertake surgical interventions like joint replacements. However, they focus on non-surgical treatments first, including specific exercises, medication, lifestyle changes, and immobilisation techniques (such as splints). Visit the NZ Orthopaedic Association for more information.   

Pain Specialist

A Pain specialist is a medical specialist who has completed additional qualifications to assess and manage patients for whom pain is the primary presenting problem. They come from a range of disciplines and use a combination of behavioural, psychological, and biomedical approaches to help reduce pain, restore function, and improve quality of life.

Paediatric Rheumatologist

A Paediatric Rheumatologist treats children up to the age of 18 who have various types of inflammatory and non-inflammatory conditions of the musculoskeletal system as well as auto-immune conditions that cause inflammation in the body. A paediatric rheumatologist can diagnose, treat, and review treatment plans made by other specialists.

Your GP or paediatrician can refer your child to see a paediatric rheumatologist. Many of the conditions managed by paediatric rheumatology services, such as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (lupus) are lifelong and require a multidisciplinary approach, which means a variety of health professionals, not just a paediatric rheumatologist will be involved in the treatment of the condition. A paediatric rheumatology team includes doctors, a clinical nurse specialist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. They also work closely with other paediatric specialists when required.

Ask your paediatric rheumatologist any questions you have about how to manage your condition, what else you can do, and what your long-term expectations can be. 

Where? The New Zealand National Paediatric Rheumatology service is primarily based at two sites – Starship hospital in Auckland and Hutt Hospital and appointments can be virtual.

For more information visit Rheumatology (


A Rheumatologist is a specialist doctor who diagnoses and treats some forms of arthritis, other conditions affecting the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and autoimmune diseases where the musculoskeletal system and other parts of the body, including eyes, skin, internal organs and the nervous system can be inflamed. They provide treatment, monitor your progress, and redesign treatment as required. Visit the NZ Rheumatology Association for more information.

Rheumatology Nurse

A Rheumatology Nurse is a registered nurse that has a special interest in caring for patients with rheumatological conditions. They work with the rheumatologist and other members of the health care team. A Rheumatology Nurse can provide physical and emotional support and education for various types of arthritis patients. They can explain your condition to you, answer your questions and provide information on your medicines. They are a link between you and your rheumatologist. You can get advice and ask your Rheumatology Nurse for help in between your appointments with your rheumatologist. They can also be called a ‘clinical nurse’, ‘clinical nurse specialist’ or ‘clinical nurse consultant’. 

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