UGPA principles for Primary Health Networks (PHNs)

Advocacy UGPA Submissions, reports and letters UGPA principles for Primary Health Networks (PHNs)

February 2015

UGPA has set out 12 principles to ensure that PHNs are effective organisations that will:

  • improve frontline service delivery
  • engage general practitioners
  • integrate the primary, community, and secondary healthcare sectors for the benefit of patients. 

These principles are informed by the successes and failures of the PHN predecessors (i.e. Divisions of General Practice and Medicare Locals) and key strategies that support effective coordination of patient care in the health sector. 
These principles are intended to facilitate genuine general practitioner involvement in the governance of PHNs and genuine PHN engagement with general practice, supporting quality patient care. 

Principle 1: Promote GP leadership of the primary healthcare team

PHNs must recognise that GPs are central to primary healthcare. 

Principle 2: Recognise the importance of coordinated primary healthcare, with the GP as coordinator

Better health outcomes will be realised by supporting GP-led and coordinated primary healthcare.  

Principle 3: Actively seek GP participation at all PHN governance levels, including on the PHN board

The skills-based PHN board and broader organisation must have a comprehensive understanding of community based general practice and its interaction with other parts of the health and social welfare systems. This comprehensive understanding can only be achieved with the direct involvement of GPs. A vital component of effective primary care is coordination care, which only GPs have the training to provide. 

Principle 4: Adopt strategies through commissioning of health services to productively support, engage and work with GPs and their teams through multiple avenues

To do this, PHNs must:

  • include GPs within governance and consultative structures (Principle 3)
  • work collaboratively with existing GP organisations and networks        
  • engage GPs at a local level on clinical issues and programs. 

Principle 5: Collaborate with GPs and other primary health providers to identify need and address local and regional service gaps

This principle is critical for the operation of all PHNs; however, PHNs operating in rural and remote areas will face additional challenges with identifying needs and appropriately addressing service gaps. 

Principle 6: Improve the capacity for general practice to deliver quality primary care

  • Providing IT and eHealth infrastructure support
  • Facilitating education and training
  • Supporting quality improvement and accreditation         
  • Assisting with the adoption of best practice

Principle 7: Support GPs to deliver population health services

PHNs must assist GPs to deliver important population health services (i.e. immunisation, assessment, screening) to address the needs of at-risk groups within the region. 

Principle 8: Facilitate health service and system integration to improve access and health outcomes

Integration of primary health services and between primary health services and local hospital networks is a priority for PHNs. Increasing meaningful communication between primary health services and other healthcare sectors, including hospitals, aged care, mental health care and palliative care will facilitate this. 

Principle 9: Minimise potential for conflicts of interest

The operation of a PHN should be limited to organisations that do not have a direct conflict of interest in the delivery or funding of services for a patient population. Private Health Insurers must be excluded from PHN partnering or operation, given their inherent conflict of interest. Transparent systems for managing conflicts of interest will also be required to ensure delivery of patient services are not adversely affected.  

Principle 10: Apply Key Service Deliverables and Key Performance Indicators to ensure PHNs address agreed performance and outcome objectives   

Principle 11: Identify market failure according to reasonable and transparent criteria

PHNs should clearly articulate the process for identifying and addressing market failure, including agreement with Government, GP organisations, GPs and other health professions. PHNs should then collaborate with primary health providers to remedy market failure, lessening opportunities for unnecessary duplication or inappropriate purchasing of services.  

Principle 12: Focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes

PHNs should directly address inequalities and health issues faced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within their region, in collaboration with Community Controlled Health Services, other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services, community groups and GPs.