Board Communiqué – September 2015

The Board of the Health Network Northern Territory recently held its inaugural face-to-face meeting since forming the Primary Health Network (PHN) for the Northern Territory. It was great to see the energy and renewed vision that directors and staff brought to the meeting. We are very optimistic about the potential of the PHN.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of two new directors. Dr Paul Burgess and Dr Samuel Goodwin come to us with a wealth of experience and expertise in both clinical practice, public health and governance. Dr Burgess is a Darwin-based GP and Public Health Physician who has practiced in the Northern Territory for 14 years. He has broad experience in urban and remote general practice, Aboriginal health, health policy and strategy, and systemic approaches to health improvement. Dr Goodwin is the Acting Executive Director of Medical and Clinical Services for the Central Australia Health Service. He has spent the last 10 years training in remote areas, with a foundation in rural generalism forming a solid basis for his interest in medical administration and health system governance. We look forward to the perspectives that Paul and Sam will contribute to the organisation. Read more about the Directors on our website here.

Update: Establishment of the Northern Territory PHN

Since the last Board Communiqué was issued in late June, we have commenced operating under the Australian Government's Primary Health Network programme. In order to do this, the name of the Company has been changed to Health Network Northern Territory Ltd and the necessary changes to the Constitution have been registered. A range of activities have been undertaken since 1 July, including signing of new funding agreements, the execution of subcontracts and the development of annual program plans and budgets.

Branding and Trading Name

Advice has now been received by the Australian Government Department of Health providing clarity around branding for PHNs. This advice stipulates that reference must be made to the Northern Territory PHN – in name and visual identity – for the activities we undertake under PHN programme funding.

Following this recent advice, we will commence operating as 'Northern Territory PHN' effective Monday 12 October 2015. Further notification will be provided to stakeholders as this change in operating name and organisational logo is implemented. The Company name will remain as 'Health Network Northern Territory Ltd' as is currently registered with ASIC.

Establishment of Clinical and Community Advisory Councils

It has been a positive start to this period, with work to establish three board committees – the Top End Clinical Council, the Central Australia Clinical Council and an NT-wide Community Advisory Council – to provide strategic advice to the Health Network Northern Territory Board.

These councils will replace the committees and advisory groups that previously advised the Northern Territory Medicare Local Board and Chief Executive Officer.

There has been a very good response to the Expression of Interest process for membership of these committees. We have received a good range of applications for all Councils. Appointment to these committees will be during September and we will provide a further update.

PHN Planning Activities

Population Health Planning and Needs Assessment activity is a high priority for the organisation to identify needs and gaps in order to target primary health care funding. Work is underway to review the Commissioning Framework and define engagement through a Regional Partnership Model. These activities will align with the Needs Assessment, which is required for submission to the Australian Government on 30 March 2016. Work on this will commence soon and will involve reviewing available information as well as consulting with a broad range of stakeholders.

To support these important bodies of work, a Planning and Partnerships branch is being established. This branch will incorporate health planning (including needs assessment), the Clinical and Public Health Advisory Unit, oversight of the regional partnership approach and practice support.

A draft new Strategic Plan has been developed to take into account a range of feedback provided by our stakeholders and ensure alignment with the appropriate KPIs for Primary Health Networks once they have been provided by the Department of Health.

As the Rural Workforce Agency for the Northern Territory, we will review our strategic workforce agency priorities with a view to enhancing performance.

PHN Performance Framework Working Group

As a member of the Primary Health Network Performance Framework Working Group, a representative from Health Network Northern Territory, along with seven other PHNs attended by teleconference the first meeting of the working group. This working group was established to advise the Department of Health on refinement of the PHN performance framework. Along with the eight PHN members, the group also includes representatives from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the National Health Performance Authority and the Department of Health. There was discussion around the national, local and contextual indicators and the construction of a framework document. The contextual indicators will be developed in order to provide a useful picture of each PHN's local operating environment. The performance framework is also intended to support collaboration between PHNs to enable the sharing of best practice.

After Hours Program

A new After Hours program schedule has been received for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017 with a significant increase in funding. This is welcomed as an opportunity to continue existing After Hours services, and to identify opportunities to further address gaps in after hours service provision across the NT with locally tailored services. Incorporation of After Hours activities into the organisational needs assessment due in March 2016 is also a requirement of the new funding schedule.

Stakeholder Relationships

Working collaboratively through a regional partnership approach is fundamental to the Health Network Northern Territory's success. A key component of this is our relationship with the Top End and Central Australia Health Services, a critical interface between the acute and primary health care sectors. An Improving Patient Journey working group was established in early 2015 to provide an opportunity for the Health Network NT Chair, CEO and Clinical and Public Health Advisor to directly collaborate with the Health Services Chairs and Chief Operating Officers. Achievements so far include presentation of the findings of the Top End Collaborative (a cross-sectoral project to pilot a tele-endocrinology clinic emanating from the Royal Darwin Hospital to two pilot sites), and assistance to develop the draft Terms of Reference for the Health Network NT's Clinical Councils. The advice of the clinical councils will play a critical role in improving integration between primary and secondary care services.

Dr Andrew Bell