Catherine King MP

Should Labor win this year’s federal election it seems likely that the Primary Health Network (PHN) system will be retained but face a number of changes. This is the signal coming from the long-serving Shadow Minister for Health, ALP parliamentarian Catherine King who responded to an inquiry about the PHNs from GP Speak.

Established on 1 July 2015, after the disbanding of the Medicare Locals, there are 31 PHNs in Australia, the local one being the North Coast Primary Health Network extending from Tweed Heads down to Port Macquarie.

Despite describing the move to establish the PHNs as “unnecessary and counter-productive”, Ms King said Labor “continues to strongly support” them.

Her statement is as follows -

The last Labor Government established Medicare Locals to help drive primary health care reform around Australia. Typical of the current Government’s approach to health, the abolition of Medicare Locals and re-establishment of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) was unnecessary and counter-productive.

Labor is particularly concerned by the narrower focus and less flexible funding that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has imposed on PHNs.

However, Labor continues to strongly support PHNs. We believe that they are uniquely placed to identify and help address local health needs – both within and beyond the current Government’s funding priorities. In fact, Labor is already working with many PHNs to identify local priorities ahead of the next federal election, due by May.

 But PHNs can only do their important work in partnership with GPs, other providers and patients, and they must continue to build local collaborations and trust.