In February 2001 the Minister of Health released the ‘Primary Health Care Strategy’, aiming to reduce inequalities in health service provision and to improve access to health services for those most in need. With promotion of “best practice” in all fields of health service delivery, this level of care was to be accomplished using key principles:
- Work with local communities and enrolled populations
- Identify and remove health inequalities
- Offer access to comprehensive services to improve, maintain and restore people’s health
- Co-ordinate care across service areas
- Develop the primary health care workforce
- Continuously improve quality using good information
To achieve this, Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) were established to work with their local health providers to identify and address the specific primary health care needs of their local communities.
By mid-2011, the National Government introduced the ‘Better, Sooner, More Convenient’ concept, resulting in the consolidation of 81 PHOs to 41 PHOs.
After consideration, the Otago and Southland District Health Boards (now Southern District Health Board - SDHB), determined that the nine PHOs serving the Otago and Southland regions would be disestablished and replaced with a single region-wide PHO. The result was the Southern Primary Health Organisation (now called WellSouth), which commenced in October 2010. By January 2011, all nine PHOs were under WellSouth umbrella.
The previous PHOs were:
- Invercargill – Te Ara a Kewa PHO (Invercargill, Bluff and Stewart Island)
- Hokonui PHO (eastern and northern Southland)
- Takitimu Health PHO (Fiordland, central and western Southland)
- Wakatipu PHO (Queenstown area)
- Mornington PHO (Dunedin)
- Otago Southern Region PHO (Clutha area)
- Rural Otago PHO (Wanaka, central and north Otago)
- Taieri and Strath Taieri PHO (Mosgiel and Maniatoto areas)
- Well Dunedin PHO (Dunedin)
WellSouth is a charitable trust funded by SDHB to provide primary health care services to residents enrolled with General Practices in the Otago and Southland regions. These services include first contact support to restore people’s health when they are unwell and a range of programmes to improve access to health care services and to promote and maintain good health. WellSouth has the largest geographic region of any PHO in New Zealand.
In addition, Southern Health Services Ltd (SHSL), a limited liability company with a charitable status, is a wholly owned subsidiary of WellSouth. SHSL was established by Taieri and Strath Taieri PHO to continue the Family Mental Health Services Contract.