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Primary health networks (PHNs)

3-minute read

Primary Health Networks (PHNs) were set up to improve patient care and to make health care in Australia more efficient and effective. They are advised by local doctors, health workers and patients in the community.

What are PHNs?

The Australian Government established 31 PHNs across Australia in 2015. They aim to:

  • improve medical services for patients, particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes
  • make sure government money is directed to where it's needed and is spent on health programs that will be most effective
  • improve the links between local health services and hospitals, 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 closely with Local Hospital Networks (LHNs), and they share roughly the same geographic boundaries. PHNs have replaced Medicare locals.

Each PHN is overseen by a board of medical professionals. It is advised by a clinical council and a community advisory committee.

The clinical councils are led by a GP and made up of local GPs, 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 patient perspective.

What do PHNs do?

PHNs support GPs, nurses and allied health practitioners to improve patient care. PHNs also improve coordination between different parts of the health system — for example, between the hospital and GP when a patient is discharged.

PHNs conduct assessments of the health needs of their region. The assessments help identify groups of people who need more resources, programs and services. The information helps PHNs to tailor health services to meet the community's needs.

PHNs can commission external healthcare providers to meet the needs in the region. For example, PHNs fund or provide:

What health issues do PHNs focus on?

PHNs focus on the areas their local community needs them to. As well, they concentrate on issues identified by the Australian Government as important, including:

How are PHNs funded?

PHNs receive funding from the Australian Government. They can use this to commission external providers or provide services themselves.

How can PHNs help you?

PHNs largely work behind the scenes to support GPs 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.

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Last reviewed: August 2020

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