Board Communiqué – June 2016

June 2016 marks the end of our transition year from the Northern Territory Medicare Local to becoming the Northern Territory’s (NT) Primary Health Network (PHN) programme provider. Over the last year Northern Territory PHN’s (NT PHN) focus has been on establishing our role in leading health system improvement in the NT. This work will continue into 2016-2017 with the further establishment of systems that support a collaborative approach to health planning, health system integration and workforce development activities. 

The Australian Government Department of Health is continuing to provide grant and funding advice for the 2016–17 financial year. NT PHN remains committed to keeping all stakeholders informed of any announcements, by providing regular updates on the NT PHN website. Additional information is available at the Australian Government Department of Health PHN information website.

Key areas of focus at the May 2016 NT PHN Board meeting included:

Health Providers Alliance Northern Territory

The Associate Membership Committee has now been replaced as a member of the company with the incorporation of Health Providers Alliance Northern Territory (Health Providers Alliance NT). All current Associate Members will be granted automatic acceptance as a member of the Health Providers Alliance NT when they commence operation on 1 July 2016.

As an independent incorporated entity the Health Providers Alliance NT will be a strong voice representing the NT’s individual health care providers in the governance of NT PHN, including representing its members at the NT PHN Annual General Meeting and in the appointment of NT PHN directors.

New Senior Appointments

I am pleased to confirm the appointment of three senior executive level NT PHN staff, and welcome Mr Greg Henschke - Executive Manager Health Planning and Partnerships, Dr Carole Reeve - Lead Clinical and Public Health Advisor, and Dr Tamsin Cockayne - Clinical and Public Health Advisor. 

Together their wide breadth of knowledge and experience will be invaluable to NT PHN’s ongoing ability to build productive partnerships with health professionals and service providers to achieve improved health outcomes for all Territorians.

Additional information on these appointments can be found here.

NT PHN Board Councils Planning Session

On 15 May 2016, a joint planning session was held in Darwin for members of the Top End and Central Australian Clinical Councils, and the Community Advisory Council. NT PHN CEO Nicki Herriot and NT PHN Director Dr Sam Goodwin were also in attendance.

The session was primarily intended to act as an information sharing activity to build a shared understanding of issues facing the Councils. Key areas emerging from the discussion included: the role of the Councils, relationships between the councils and NT PHN, and engagement by the Councils with their respective “constituencies”. The Councils agreed to develop a shared work plan for 2016-2017 with Chairs to meet regularly with the CEO and Board Chair.

Chair of the Top End Clinical Council, Dr Tamsin Cockayne has resigned from the position following her recent appointment to the role of NT PHN Clinical and Public Health Advisor. A vacant position also exists on the Central Australia Clinical Council; both of these positions will shortly be advertised through an Expression of Interest process.

Reconciliation Action Plan

NT PHN is currently developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) aimed at building better relationships between the organisation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and improving the cultural safety of NT PHN for our Indigenous employees and stakeholders. The RAP will outline how NT PHN commits to contributing to reconciliation within Australia through its organisational culture and activities. Forming a practical tool of measurable actions, the RAP will build respectful relationships and create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Commissioning Framework

One of NT PHN’s core activities is to strategically commission and support equitable, needs based health programs and initiatives.  NT PHN is updating its commissioning framework to align with the national PHN commissioning guidelines and to take into account our NT context. NT PHN will continue to commission health services through service providers, including Aboriginal community controlled health services, the private sector including general practices and allied health professionals, other not-for-profit companies and other providers.

Consistent with the national PHN commissioning guidelines on tendering approaches, NT PHN will adopt a clearly defined, transparent process to assist staff in identifying the most appropriate tender process.

 Innovation Funding

The Australian Government Department of Health has confirmed that NT PHN has been allocated Innovation Funding for approved activities through to 30 June 2018. Taking note of the priorities identified in the recent NT PHN Needs Assessment, the Board is currently obtaining input from the Top End and Central Australian Clinical Councils and the Community Advisory Council on activities to be included within NT PHN’s Innovation Activity Proposal to use this funding, which is due for submission in mid-July.

Health Care Homes

The Australian Government Department of Health recently announced plans to implement Health Care Home trials in seven identified PHN regions which will be announced by the Minister for Health. Health Care Homes aim to enhance primary health care service provision by enabling constant access to comprehensive primary health care providers. It is expected the trials will support a reduction in acute care usage. Patients will be supported with access to coordinated medical, allied health and out-of-hospital services in a primary health care setting.

Although no Expression of Interest process is available, NT PHN have advocated for the NT to be considered as a trial site for Health Care Homes. The Board considers that the NT presents an ideal location for the trial thanks to the key elements and collaborative foundation provided by its single jurisdiction, two local hospital networks, highly developed Aboriginal community controlled health sector and private sector.

Core Clinical Systems Renewal Program (CCRSP)

The Northern Territory Government has announced the commitment of $186 million over five years to replace its clinical systems with a jurisdiction-wide single integrated patient electronic record system. The Board identified the need for NT PHN to be involved in the CCRSP discussions, particularly with regard to stakeholder engagement and partnerships with the NT’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and private practitioner network.

Program funding for 2016/17 financial year

The Australian Government is channelling new and existing funding through PHNs. NT PHN has seen growth in its program funding component, from $29 million in the 2015/16 financial year, to $46 million in the 2016/17 financial year (with Health Workforce funding yet to be committed). This increase is welcome, particularly with regard to additional funding for drug and alcohol; and mental health programs for Aboriginal people.

A key focus has been the development and execution of Program Agreements to ensure service continuity for continuing programs and services across the NT. A number of program areas will see new services established following completion of comprehensive commissioning processes. Significant effort has been made by NT PHN’s program areas in collaboration with service providers to complete service design and contracting prior to the end of financial year.

Dr Andrew Bell