How we support Primary Health Networks

PHNs manage their region in line with the needs of their community, based on consultation and guidance from community advisory committees and clinical councils, as well as Australian Government health priorities. The program guidelines and performance framework provide structure for the program.

Key priorities

PHNs manage all aspects of primary health care in their region. They tailor services to meet the individual needs of their communities, in line with priority areas set by the Australian Government. These are:

  • mental health
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • population health
  • health workforce
  • digital health
  • aged care
  • alcohol and other drugs.

PHN program guidelines

We manage the PHN program, including producing policy, managing funding and monitoring performance. We work with key stakeholders as part of supporting the successful delivery of the PHN Program.

The program guidelines steer the work of PHNs. They outline the PHN grant process, eligibility for funding, and the way PHNs should operate.

Primary Health Networks (PHN) grant program guidelines

These guidelines outline how the Primary Health Networks (PHN) program and its funding arrangements work, as well as the responsibilities of funded PHNs.

PHN performance framework

We assess the performance of PHNs every 12 months. We check that they are meeting the program’s objectives, and are helping to improve health care in their regions.

Our performance framework:

  • identifies areas for improvement for individual PHNs and for the program
  • helps PHNs measure their performance and quality against tangible indicators
  • measures the PHN program’s progress towards achieving its objectives.

For each of the key priority areas, we assess whether the PHN is:

  • ensuring the health services they commission are providing quality care
  • improving access to health care
  • supporting coordination of health services
  • ensuring long-term change.

We also measure their performance against organisational, local and national indicators, such as unnecessary hospitalisation, childhood immunisation rates and mental health treatment rates.

A 2018 evaluation of the program found that PHNs are critical in delivering sustainable, integrated and safe primary health care to the Australian people. Read the evaluation findings.

Primary Health Networks (PHN) performance and quality framework

This performance and quality framework helps measure how the work of the PHNs is helping to achieve the program’s objectives. It helps PHNs measure their performance across the 7 priority areas against several indicators.

Reviews and evaluations

We review and evaluate the program to see what works, what doesn’t and how we can improve it.

A 2018 evaluation of the PHN program:

  • looked at how the program was implemented in local contexts
  • assessed whether the program was meeting its goals
  • is informing the ongoing implementation of the PHN Program.

The 2014 review of Medicare Locals provided independent advice on all aspects of a Medicare Locals’ structure, operations and functions, as well as options for future directions. Medicare Locals preceded PHN’s and this review helped guide the development of the PHN program.

Data resources

Researchers doing geospatial and data analysis can use the concordance files based on:

  • Australian Statistical Geography Standards
  • Local Government Areas
  • Postal Areas
  • Commonwealth Electoral Divisions.

Legislation and regulations

The PHN program is governed by the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017 under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

Last updated: 
2 September 2021

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