Primary care: health system foundation must have sure footings

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Primary care: health system foundation must have sure footings

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has welcomed the acknowledgement of the role of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in the Department of Health’s plans outlined in the 2015-16 Budget.

In announcing the successful PHN applicants in April, Health Minister Ley stated that the PHNs would “reshape the delivery of primary health care across the nation”.

“It is pleasing to note that the work of the Primary Health Care Advisory Group will consider opportunities for building investment in PHNs, particularly in relation to chronic disease, funding models, mental health and the links between primary care and hospitals,” says AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

“Some of the funding decisions reported in the Health Budget Statements however appear to be at odds with this sentiment – for example, the long-awaited GP After Hours Review is not yet available, and no funding allocations have been made to PHNs at this stage.

“The resources available to PHNs must reflect the level of inequity in the community, their coordinating role, the health outcome gains required and variable factors such as geography and business operation costs.   The PHNs must also be given sufficient authority to be innovative and flexible in their commissioning role.

“The health system is a complex structure incorporating multiple providers, different funding mechanisms, and numerous interfaces.  PHNs are expected (as were Medicare Locals before them) to facilitate changes across this complicated arrangement. 

“As a starting point, there remain many lessons to be learned from the Medicare Local experience.

In the immediate context PHNs need stability in policy and funding; they must be appropriately empowered to do their work and supported by all levels of government to get up and running without further delay,” says Ms Verhoeven.

To achieve real and sustainable change and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the health system, the Government must make a strong and enduring commitment to supporting the implementation of the PHNs and the better integration of primary and acute care.  The AHHA hopes tonight’s announcements signal this support.


The AHHA represents Australia’s largest group of health care providers in public hospitals, community and primary health sectors and advocates for universal high quality healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, 0403 282 501