The governance of primary mental health planning by Primary Health Networks

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3 Citations (Scopus)


The establishment of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) was accompanied by assignment of responsibility for funding for primary mental healthcare. To ensure this funding is spent in line with government priorities, the Federal government developed a planning document with established priorities and guidance documents for how the planning document should be completed. This paper examines how these documents shape service delivery through enabling some activities and excluding others and identifies the assumptions that underpin these documents. Data were drawn from discourse and content analysis of completed planning documents from the PHNs and of the guidance documents and from reflection upon mental health planning from 55 interviews with key personnel from six PHNs. Service delivery is shaped by outcome measures that promote service access, cost-effectiveness and clinical effectiveness, contributing to service options that favour self-management for mild mental illness and clinical (but not social) services for people with severe mental illness. There is also limited scope for mental health promotion with prevention activities focused upon populations identified by the government as being at-risk. This occurs to the detriment of other at-risk populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • document analysis
  • planning
  • policy
  • Primary Health Networks
  • primary mental healthcare


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