Primary Health Organisations

Primary Health Organisations (PHOs)

Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) are local structures to co-ordinate the delivery of primary care services (such as GP Practices and Medical Centres) to local populations. Their roles are to:

  • provide care and treatment when people are ill;
  • help people stay healthy;
  • ensure care reaches those people in the community with poor health, and who are missing out on health care.

PHOs bring together the entire range of health professionals who are involved in providing community health care, to make sure everyone in the community is able to access whatever aspect of care they need as quickly and easily as possible.

As well as doctors and nurses, this includes:

  • Maori health workers;
  • health promotion workers;
  • dietitians;
  • pharmacists;
  • physiotherapists;
  • psychologists; and others.


PHOs are not-for-profit organisations funded by government through District Health Boards (DHBs).

The level of funding is based on the numbers of people enrolled with the PHO, and the characteristics of the local population (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity and deprivation).

Funding allows PHOs to:

  • subsidise doctor’s visits;
  • reduce prescription costs;
  • run health promotion programmes;
  • develop innovative ways of improving the uptake of services to reduce health inequalities in their populations.

More detailed information on the structure and funding of PHOs can be found on the Ministry of Health website.

Note: All but one West Coast practices are Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) funded therefore Coasters pay the lowest co-payment available and under 13s are free if they are enrolled with a Coast practice and attend that practice for a normal appointment within office hours.