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Northern Territory rural and remote health services

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Health services are harder to access in the Northern Territory (NT).
  • It is important to know where to get help when you need it, and to be familiar with health services in your area.
  • Telehealth allows remote video and phone contact with health practitioners.
  • You may be eligible for travel and accommodation support for medical appointments.

Planning ahead

There are around 250,000 people living in the Northern Territory (NT). Most of the NT is considered remote or very remote, excluding Darwin and the near-by city of Palmerston. Many people live on cattle stations, in mining towns or in Aboriginal communities. Regional centres, such as Alice Springs, provide services to the surrounding communities.

From the centre of Australia to the tropical north, the NT is a unique place to live, work, and travel. Much of the state is very remote, so health services are not always readily available. By planning ahead and knowing what health services are available to you, you can prepare for when and if you need help.

What types of health services are available?

There are major public teaching hospitals in Darwin and Alice Springs, and smaller public hospitals in Nhulunbuy (also known as Gove), Katherine and Tennant Creek. Many communities don't have easy access to hospitals or doctors. Services are delivered through health clinics and primary health care sites based in regional and remote areas of the NT.

Specialist outreach services are available to remote NT residents with visiting specialists, outpatient care at hospitals, and telehealth consultations. Remote area nurses play an important role in delivering health care in the NT. Nurse practitioners are nurse with extra qualifications who are trained to provide emergency care, give diagnoses, and prescribe medicine.

Careflight operates a 24-hour emergency flight service for the Top End. Emergency flights for Central Australia are provided by St John Ambulance and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Royal Flying Doctor Service also provides telehealth and medical chests and outreach services to Central Australia. Medical chests are packs that have a range of medical and non-medical items that can help treat people in remote areas.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, make up about 1 in 3 residents of the Northern Territory. There are hundreds of small Aboriginal communities in the NT.

On average, the health of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people is worse than that of non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people have much higher rates of diabetes, kidney disease, sexually transmitted infections, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health workers and doctors support people with clinical care and referrals, as well as providing health education.

City hospitals have Indigenous liaison workers to help Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander patients while they are in hospital.

Culturally appropriate services are available through Aboriginal Medical Services.

Finding services and online support

The internet is a great source of information when searching for health services. There are many different websites with information, but it is very important to use reliable sources, such as healthdirect's service finder. Get to know the online support options, so you can prepare for your future health needs.

You can call healthdirect for free 24-hour health advice for non-urgent care. Call 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse.

If you are pregnant, or a parent of a young child and have a health question, the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby video call service allows you to speak face-to-face with a maternal child health nurse. Video call is a free service and is available from 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week (including public holidays).


Regional hospitals are important but often do not have all the different types of specialist doctors. Telehealth helps patients and health practitioners in remote areas contact specialist services in bigger medical centres through audio and video calls.

Telehealth can, in some situations, reduce your need to travel to an appointment.

My eHealth record

My eHealth Record is a secure online summary of your health information. It improves communication between your doctor, health services, specialists and hospitals. This can help people living in rural and remote areas, as you may have several health providers in different locations. This digital summary allows your important health information to be stored in one place, and to be easily accessible to health care professionals.

Travelling to health services

Travelling to go to health services and medical appointments can be stressful and expensive. However, you might be eligible for travel assistance through the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS).

Being prepared for hospital admission and discharge is especially important for people living in remote areas. If you need help, talk to your local health service, Indigenous health worker or closest hospital.

Mental health and wellbeing

If you live and work in rural and remote areas, you can feel different types of stress, compared with people who live in city areas. You may sometimes need extra support. These stresses include loneliness and isolation. There are services available for Central Australia and the Top End to help you maintain good mental health.

The NT Mental Health Line (1800 682 288) is a great place to start, and there are also other 24-hour mental health hotlines available.

Emergency medical help

In a medical emergency, immediately dial triple zero (000), and ask for an ambulance.

There are other emergency services available to people in rural and remote NT:

Resources and support

To find health services in the Northern Territory specific to your needs, visit the following:

Further information

More information on a range of health conditions and services include:

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222. A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available from 7 am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week (including public holidays).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

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