Key messages

  • Health service boards have a range of well-defined responsibilities, and are accountable to the Minister for Health.     
  • The responsibilities for rural health services are less prescriptive than for metropolitan services.

Health service boards play an essential role in guiding Victoria's health services on behalf of the Minister for Health. They have to act within defined legal and financial requirements.

Victorian health services with government-appointed boards

In Victoria, health service boards are appointed for:

  • public healthcare services, which comprise major metropolitan and regional health services
  • public hospitals, which include rural hospitals and multipurpose services
  • early parenting centres
  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Health Purchasing Victoria.

The role of a health service board

A board is accountable to the Minister for Health for the service’s performance. Each health service board steers its entity on behalf of the minister and in accordance with government policy.

Board members do not participate in the day-to-day management of the health service. This is the role of the chief executive officer (CEO) and staff. Health service boards:

  • govern health services
  • develop strategies
  • oversees financial and service performance
  • respond and adapt to challenges such as population and changing demographics
  • meet regulatory and government policy requirements and standards.

Responsibilities under the Health Services Act

Under The Health Service Act 1988 (HSA) (s. 65S), a health service board for metropolitan or major regional health services needs to:

  • establish the service’s organisational and management structure
  • monitor the performance of the CEO each financial year
  • establish finance, audit and quality committees
  • appoint a primary care and population health advisory committee, and at least one community advisory committee
  • develop arrangements with other agencies and providers
  • advise the Minister and the Secretary about significant board decisions, issues of public concern, or significant risks
  • carry out any other functions conferred on the board by or under the Act
  • facilitate health research and education
  • adopt a code of conduct for staff of the health service
  • provide training for directors
  • develop a statement of priorities (SoPs) and strategic plans, and monitor their compliance
  • develop financial and business plans, strategies and budgets
  • establish and maintain effective systems so the service meets community needs
  • monitor the performance of the health service.

When monitoring the performance of a health service, the board must make sure it:

  • operates within budget
  • produces audit and accounting systems that reflect its financial position and viability
  • adheres to its financial and business plans, strategic plans and statement of priorities
  • uses effective risk management systems
  • has effective systems to monitor and improve its health services
  • promptly addresses any problems with service quality or effectiveness
  • strives to improve the quality of its health services and foster innovation
  • monitors the effectiveness of committees it sets up or appoints under the Health Services Act.

The Health Services Act also specifies that the board must ensure the CEO holds an annual meeting of the health service between 1 July and 31 December.

Responsibilities for rural health services and multipurpose health services

The Health Services Act defines fewer responsibilities for the boards of rural health and multipurpose health services than for metropolitan health services. The Victorian Health Services Governance Handbook contains full details.