National Health Co-operative

In the early 2000s, there was an acute shortage in access to both GPs and bulk-billing primary healthcare in the ACT. With the community frustrated by the lack of action to address their needs they came together to find a solution and began researching ways to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services for themselves. In 2009, the National Health Co-operative (formerly West Belconnen Health Co-operative) was set up which today provides GP services and allied healthcare to around 10 per cent of the ACT population. Read their story.

The National Health Co-operative (NHC) is a Public Service Mutual based in the ACT. The co-operative operates five full-time medical centres and three part-time centres which provide health care to over 30,000 registered patients who receive 100,000 consultations annually. The co-operative employs 60 medical and administrative staff across eight centres including centres co-located in aged care facilities.

The inability of many Australians to afford or to be able to access quality primary health care through a GP clinic is a growing problem for many communities including in rural and regional Australia. The gap in service provision is only expected to grow overtime, with an estimated shortfall of 2,700 qualified GPs in Australia by 2025. To address the increasing corporatisation of medicine in Australia and to better meet the needs of patients, a different and more co-operative approach is needed.

In the early 2000s, there was an acute shortage an access to both GPs and bulk-billing GPs in the ACT region. With a community frustrated, they came together to find a solution and began researching ways to provide affordable and accessible health care services. In 2009, the National Health Co-operative was set up which today serves 10 per cent of the ACT population.

The primary source of revenue for NHC is from member fees and provision of services (through the Medicare rebate). In the 2014 financial year, NHC’s turnover increased by 34 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

The success of NHC is in part due to its ability to harness a range of resources both internal and external to the co-operative. NHC is able to successfully meet the needs of their members through three key mechanisms which are distinct to co-operatives.

Since 2009, NHC has faced challenges including community engagement, competition, limited awareness of co-operatives, credibility and funding.

The NHC is maintaining a very strong patient growth rate of approximately 7 per cent per quarter and over the next six months will be opening three additional Canberra clinics and a clinic in NSW. Over the next five years, the NHC intends to expand nationally with the aim of making a substantive positive impact on the health of Australians.

As part of its growth, NHC has made many findings with funding, research and the requirement to define the need all taking precedence.

Browse the NHC Case Study Bibliography.

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