Objective: This paper aims to synthesise the broader perspectives of Māori patients and their whānau (extended family, family group) of their treatment within the public health system. Our research question was ‘What are the experiences of Māori in the public health and/or hospital system in Aotearoa New Zealand?’

Methods: A systematic search using PRISMA protocols and reflexive typology organised around the categories of Māori, public healthcare and qualitative research identified 14 papers that covered all three categories. We undertook a qualitative metasynthesis on these papers using a critical community psychology approach.

Results: Māori patients and whānau from the included papers mention both barriers and facilitators to health. We categorised barriers as organisational structures, staff interactions and practical considerations. Facilitators were categorised as the provision of whānau support in the form of practical assistance, emotional care and health system navigation.

Conclusions: For many Māori, the existing public health system is experienced as hostile and alienating. Whānau members provide support to mitigate this, but it comes as a cost to whānau.

Implications for public health: Public health providers must find ways to ensure that Māori consistently experience positive, high‐quality healthcare interactions that support Māori ways of being.