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Access and Choice

Access and Choice is a free, primary mental health and addiction service based in general practices in the Southern region. Part of a national initiative, Access and Choice places qualified mental health practitioners in general practices, making it faster and easier to access care. They provide free and timely support for patients and clients wanting help to improve self-management and provide guidance with behaviour change - including addressing stress, addictions, social issues, or long-term physical health struggles. 

Access and Choice is delivered by a collaborative partnership across existing health and wellbeing providers in the region. Below are the providers that support the delivery of this program.

Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPS) 

Health Improvement Practitioners are qualified and registered health professionals with experience in mental health. They offer 15 to 30 minute appointments to assist clients to take positive steps forward in improving their well-being. Health Improvement Practitioners  - HIPs for short - provide a little bit of help to a lot of people by supporting patients to take the next step to improve their well-being across the whole range of physical and mental health presentations. They can support clients of any age.

How do you access the Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP)?

HIPs sit within designated GP practices. A GP or practice nurse may suggest a client meet the HIP in addition to their consult or a patient can contact the practice to arrange a time. The HIP will always attempt to accommodate an appointment on the same day. Seeing a HIP is FREE.

Each appointment with the HIP is designed to be a single, one-off consult. At the end of this session clients leave with a plan for them to start to improve their well-being or a referral to another service if necessary. A follow-up appointment may be arranged if required.

HIPs do not offer therapy, case management or need to discharge clients. They do not offer crisis services.

Clients can still access other services or therapies, in addition to seeing a HIP.

Health Coaches

Health Coaches are based in general practices and work alongside Health Improvement Practitioners and the general practice teams. Like HIPs, they accept same-day, ‘warm handovers’ from GP staff of clients and patients needing their help. They come from a range of health and well-being backgrounds, supporting people to take positive steps forward for improving their health. This includes:

  • Assisting in goal setting for a range of concerns, including stress, physical activity, medication adherence, chronic conditions;

  • Supporting values-based self-management;

  • Sitting within the practice and can take warm handovers;

  • Making recommendations to GP teams about referrals pathways that would benefit the client;

  • Providing handovers directly to Health Improvement Practitioner and Community Support Worker.

Community Support Workers

Community Support Workers, employed by community agencies, support people with anything that is non-clinical, but having a large impact on people's well-being and ability to make progress. The key word is “support” as CSW walk alongside people, supporting them to achieve their goals. This can include helping them to navigate daily living – helping clients learn to cook or work out a budget. They also use their knowledge of social services to help people work with government agencies like Work and Income New Zealand or Kāinga Ora.

General Practices hosting HIPs, Health Coaches and Community Support Workers:

Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago:
Alexandra Family Medical
Aspiring Medical
Health Central
Junction Health
Queenstown Medical Centre

Wanaka Medical

Invercargill and Southland
Best and McKay Family Doctors
Bluff Medical
Gore Health
Gore Medical
Invercargill Medical Centre
He Puna Waiora Wellness
Queens Park Medical Centre 
Waihopi Health Services

Dunedin, Oamaru and South Otago
Aurora Health Centre
Broadway Medical Centre
Clutha Health First
Dunedin Health Centre
East Otago Health Centre
Green Island Medical Centre
Kurow Medical Centre
Meridian Medical Centre
Mornington Health Centre

Mosgiel Health Centre
South Hill Medical Centre, Oamaru
Te Kāika Medical Services


Media coverage

HIPS set to work in clinics - Otago Daily Times

New GP teams to help more people in Southland - Southland Times/Stuff

Profile - Rachael Bentley, Health Improvement Practitioner South Hill Medical Centre, Oamaru and East Otago Health Centre