Primary health networks (PHNs) were set up to improve patient care and to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. Each network is controlled by a board of medical professionals and advised by a clinical council and community advisory committee.
What are PHNs?
The Australian Government established 31 PHNs across Australia in 2015. They aim to:
- improve the efficiency and effectiveness of medical services for patients, particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes; and
- improve the coordination of care so that patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
PHNs are independent organisations funded by the Australian Government. They work collaboratively with local hospital networks (LHNs), and their boundaries closely align. PHNs have replaced Medicare locals.
Each PHN is overseen by a board. The board is advised by a GP-led clinical council and a community advisory committee.
The clinical councils are made up of local general practitioners, nurses, allied and community health staff, Indigenous health workers, specialists and hospital management staff.
The community advisory committees are made up of interested health consumers, patients and carers. These people have experience and insights into the health system from a consumer perspective. Input from the community drives the development of appropriate, accessible, patient-centred healthcare.
What do PHNs do?
PHNs support general practitioners, nurses and allied health practitioners to improve patient care. PHNs also improve coordination between components of the health system, for example, between the hospital and GP when a patient is discharged from hospital inpatient care.
PHNs conduct assessments of the health needs of their region. The assessments help identify groups of people who need additional resources, programs and services. The information helps PHNs to tailor health services to meet community needs.
PHNs are expected to commission external healthcare providers to meet regional needs. For example, PHNs fund or provide:
- after-hours services
- mental health services
- My Health Record uptake
- health promotion programs
- childhood immunisation data collection
- primary care support, including continuing education.
What health issues do PHNs focus on?
They focus on the areas their local community needs them to. As well, they concentrate on issues identified by the Australian Government as important, including:
- arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions
- cancer control
- cardiovascular health
- injury prevention and control
- mental health
How are PHNs funded?
PHNs have core funding from the Australian Government to support their corporate activities. They also have flexible funding to commission external providers or provide services themselves.
How can PHNs help you?
PHNs largely work behind the scenes to support general practitioners and other health providers so they can offer better healthcare to patients.
They also conduct community consultation and health promotion activities through direct contact with patients, carers and the community.
How to find your nearest PHN
You can use the interactive map locator on the Department of Health website.
Enter your address in the search window. The contact details of your local PHN will appear. You can also click on the map to find the PHN covering a specific location.
Last reviewed: September 2016