NT Health Service Act Receives Assents

Friday 28 May 2021 @ 11.06 a.m. | Legal Research

On 20 May 2021, the Health Service Act 2021 (NT) ("the Act") received assent. The Act is scheduled to commence on 1 July 2021.

The Bill for the Act was introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 24 March 2021 by Minister for Health Natasha Fyles. The Bill was passed on 6 May 2021.

Purpose of the Act

As outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Statement the purpose of the legislation is to:

“… establish the legislative basis for a new governance framework for the delivery of health services in the Northern Territory and to repeal the Health Services Act 2014 … the new governance framework will integrate the functions and resources of the Agency [formerly known as the NT Health Service] and the two Health Services established under the Health Services Act 2014 into a single health system”.

The new system-wide governance framework established under the Act is designed to significantly improve the performance, sustainability and equity of health service delivery across the Territory. It aims to incorporate regional and clinical leadership and expertise into both structure and decision-making.

Key Amendments

Under the Act, the the CEO of the Agency will remain as the System Manager, responsible for the overall development, management, commissioning, and performance of health services and health support services in the Territory. 

Health services and health support services will be delivered by NT Regional Health Services, which operate within the Agency, and is established under Part 3 of the Act. NT Regional Health Services will not have a legal personality separate to the Northern Territory. The Act also contains strengthened financial accountability provisions to enhance transparency regarding the receipt and expenditure of funding received under the National Health Funding Pool and Administration (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2012 (NT).

The Bill also proposes to require an annual service plan, which would set out the health services to be provided by the NT Regional Health Services. This annual service plan would replace the Service Delivery Agreements that are currently required under the Health Services Act 2014 (NT). 

It is expected that the new governance framework will continue to satisfy NT’s responsibilities under the National Health Reform Agreement (“the NHRA”). 

The NHRA was an agreement originally made by the Australian Government and all State and Territory governments in August 2011. On 29 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced the new 2020-25 National Health Reform Agreement, which was signed-on by all Australian governments. The NHRA continues to commit to:

“… improving health outcomes for Australians, by providing better coordinated and joined up care in the community, and ensuring the future sustainability of Australia’s health system”.

The goals of the NHRA are to:

  • deliver safe, high-quality care in the right place at the right time;
  • prioritise prevention, and help people manage their health across their lifetime;
  • drive best-practice and performance using data and research; and
  • improve efficiency and ensure financial sustainability.

Comment from the Minister

The Minister commented in a media release that the legislation will:

“... put the Northern Territory Government one step closer to integrating Top End Health Service, Central Australia Health Service and NT Health into one new governance structure .. [and] will bolster the delivery of health services and improve economic opportunities for Territorians”.

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