The COPHE idea

COPHE aims to increase the access of affordable and appropriate primary health care to poorly-served communities or client groups by supporting local community groups or non-government organisations to develop such services.

The primary health care (PHC) sector is changing. GP practices are getting larger and fewer. The number owned by health professionals is shrinking while those owned by for-profit corporations is growing fast. The breadth of PHC professionals is growing too and more multidisciplinary care is emerging slowly. However there are relatively few primary health care health services owned and run by communities or non-government organisations (NGOs). The number of services where communities have any real say over their health care is therefore stagnant.

The Victorian community health sector is the only one that remains strong in any Australian state. These services have always had strong community representation on their boards and are now companies limited by guarantee but essentially community-owned not-for-profit businesses. There are also a number of other models operating successfully in some localities throughout Australia.

COPHE believes that whilst there are many excellent individual GPs and health professionals, the primary health care sector is relatively fragmented. Additionally the trend to more corporate-owned profit-driven services we believe is unlikely to provide the kind of consumer-centred multidisciplinary care that is seen as best practice in an era of an ageing population and increasing levels of chronic disease.