Nurses are biggest salary spend for DHBs

March 1, 2021

District health boards (DHBs) spend the biggest chunk of their $6.3 billion salary costs on nurses – $2.2 billion or 36 per cent – according to a report by the Health Workforce Directorate.

The directorate is a team within the Ministry of Health responsible for workforce leadership. The cost and value of employment in the health and disability sector draws on December 31, 2019, figures to break down DHBs’ salary spend.


There were 76,213 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff employed by 20 DHBs, according to the report. Most were nurses – 39 per cent – followed by corporate and other personnel at 19 per cent, then allied health professionals at 16 per cent. Care and support workers were next at 11 per cent, with senior medical officers at seven per cent.


The $2.2 billion DHB salary spend on nurses was followed by $1.1 billion for senior medical officers; $932 million for corporate and other services; and $884 million for allied health and scientific health workers. The smallest spend was on midwifery, at $120 million.

Māori, Pacific under-represented

The report also found Māori and Pacific populations were not well represented in the DHB workforce.

“Māori are 15 per cent of our population but only eight percent of the DHB workforce. Pacific peoples are about eight per cent of our population and just four per cent of the DHB workforce.”


Just three per cent of medical staff were Māori and 1.8 per cent Pacific. In nursing, Māori were seven per cent and Pacific three per cent.

However, the percentage of Māori nurses within the overall nursing workforce was slowly rising, increasing from 3.6 per cent in 2009 to 6.5 per cent in 2015, it said.


The number of Pacific nurses was also rising, but so was the workforce.

The full report can be viewed on the Ministry of Health website – The Cost and Value of Employment in the Health and Disability Sector.