Primary Health Networks announced

Primary Health Networks: doctor holds up stethoscope

The Abbott Government has announced the list of successful applicants to run Primary Health Networks, which will begin rolling out from July 1.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the successful applicants following a tender process run at arm’s length by the Department of Health.

PHNs will replace Labor’s Medicare Local system of 61 regions.

Ley says the 31 new Primary Health Networks – worth a total of nearly $900 million – would be “outcome focussed” on improving frontline services, and would also generally align with state Local Hospital Networks to ensure better integration between primary and acute care services.

“The Abbott Government wants to ensure Australians are able to access the right care, in the right place, at the right time and Primary Health Care networks form a core part of our plan,” Ley says.

“Primary Health Networks will reshape the delivery of primary health care across the nation.

“The key difference between Primary Health Networks and Medicare Locals is that PHNs will focus on improving access to frontline services, not backroom bureaucracy.

“This is backed by the fact PHNs will deliver improved access to primary care services for patients, as well as better co-ordination with local hospitals, while at the same time improving the overall operational efficiency of the network by 30%.”

Ley says many of the successful PHNs announced were consortiums harnessing the best skills and knowledge from a range of sources, including allied health providers, universities, private health insurers and some of the more-successful former Medicare Locals.

PHNs will work directly with GPs, other primary health care providers, secondary care providers, hospitals and the broader community to ensure improved outcomes for patients.

“By aligning PHNs with state Local Hospital Networks we also aim to reduce the merry-go-round for many patients with chronic or complex conditions between primary care and hospital treatment,” she says.

The Minister says that in addition to general health, the Abbott Government has also set PHNs six key priorities for targeted work in mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, population health, health workforce, eHealth and aged care.

She says the Abbott Government has also added additional checks and balances via the creation of PHN Community Advisory Committees, which will ensure all patients and local communities can provide feedback to, and have direct input into, the PHN to ensure they deliver the localised health care requirements that were unique to their region.

“There’s no doubting that, individually, there were some high-quality Medicare locals across the country, however there were also plenty that haven’t lived up to Labor’s promise,” Ley says.

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