Whakakotahi – HQSC

Health Quality & Safety Commission

Learn how HQSC worked in partnership with key experts to bring primary care providers together to run sector-led projects as part of Whakakotahi improvement programme.


HQSC was tasked with developing quality improvement programmes and measurement for primary health care. In 2015 an advisory group was created, made up of primary care experts, consumers and Māori equity experts. In 2016 parameters of the project were established and in 2017 workstreams commenced.


Whakakotahi has been implemented to increase quality improvement and capability in primary care. Whakakotahi works to build partnerships and identify and support sector-led projects. Whakakotahi, meaning ‘to be as one’, and has 3 key principles: consumer engagement, equity and integration.

Observations and lessons learnt

Collaboration with Iwi and Māori

Māori expertise embedded in the team

The Te Ao Māori expert from Te Tihi was embedded into the HQSC team and was present at regular team meetings as well as strategy sessions. This gave the team a constant source of expertise in this area and the expert had a holistic understanding of how the wider team worked together. Having this presence challenged their thinking and encouraged them to broaden their perspectives. The team built a habit of thinking ‘what would our expert do/say in this scenario?’ which ensured they set out to weave a Te Ao Māori lens through the process. Working in this way provided opportunity for individual growth. Individuals from the project team now understand the importance of partnering with experts to have a focus on equity and can apply this to other projects. HQSC is ‘still on the wave’ of developing its understanding and capability in this area.

Collaboration with the public and non-government entities

Bring in experts, partner with experts

Recognising areas where they weren’t strong, HQSC was able to openly welcome the expertise of partners to ensure diverse lenses were brought to project selection and throughout the whole process. Primary care experts were engaged from the beginning in an advisory group. HQSC recognised part way through that Te Ao Māori and equity expertise were needed, and partnered with Te Tihi o Ruahine (Te Tihi | Whānau Ora - Home) and PHARMAC respectively. Rather than the default top-down method of working, Whakakotahi worked through sharing the ‘baskets of knowledge’ that each partner brought to the table to enable real collaboration.

Having a Māori partner (Te Tihi) working alongside the Commission eased the development of relationships with Māori organisations. PHARMAC collaborated with Te Tihi and HQSC to share their knowledge and skills on equity with the project teams. This expertise was particularly valued by project teams focused on medicine access equity.

Modelling successful collaborative partnerships encourages providers to collaborate

Modelling collaborative partnerships themselves, HQSC has been able to encourage providers in primary care to partner with key players in their own communities to deliver projects. In doing this, they are able to have a broader impact on their communities. Project teams have brought together GPs, kaupapa Māori providers, pharmacies and social services. 

Travel to people to build relationships and collaborate

The team travelled to communities to build Whakakotahi. This enabled them to reach further into communities, interact on more equal grounds and engage with more providers. Their own partnerships benefited from the organic interactivity of travelling together and the ad hoc conversations that naturally take place on car trips and in airports. This highlighted the importance of connecting as individuals to build relationships and trust in order to successfully work in partnership.

Want to learn more?

More Case Studies

Read how HQSC facilitates and supports DHBs to learn from each other to reduce/eliminate seclusion practices and to make progress on some of their biggest challenges, through the use of data, a unique operating model and online sessions.

Learn how the Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) co-created a policy using a community-focused approach to ensure people’s data and information is collected, stored, accessed and shared in a respectful, trusted, and transparent way.

Learn how EECA helps their business customers and public sector organisations (orgs) make technically and economically viable decisions and investments to meet their long-term carbon reduction goals.