On 1 July 2021, Health Service Partnerships were established as an enduring element of the Victorian health system.

Health Service Partnerships replaced the health service ‘clusters’ that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought health services together within regions to tackle common challenges. Initially this was centred on planning for a then-expected surge in demand for COVID-related critical care; as the pandemic has worn on, health services have also increasingly supported each other on other fronts – including staff furloughs and responses to outbreaks in private sector residential aged care.

The work of the clusters highlighted how much more resilient our system is when health services work together, and this new, collaborative approach provided the foundations of a better way of working in future. To this end, Health Service Partnerships were established to support enduring collaboration in the Victorian health system beyond the pandemic. Three Health Service Partnerships will continue to cover metropolitan Melbourne with five across rural and regional Victoria.

Priority initiatives

While preserving local autonomy, the Health Service Partnership model requires health services to work together on a small number of strategic system priorities that can be enhanced through working in collaboration.

In 2021-22 these strategic priorities include:

  • ongoing coordination and leadership of our pandemic response, continuing to build on both the successes and lessons of 2020
  • improving elective surgery and emergency care access, including delivery of the Victorian Government’s $300 million Elective Surgery Blitz and $22 million elective surgery improvement program
  • implementation of the Victorian Government’s $120.9 million Better at Home initiative, giving more Victorians the opportunity to receive their hospital care at home,
  • supporting the implementation of relevant recommendations from the historic Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

Health Service Partnerships are also free to agree additional local priorities.

Regional Area Health Partnerships and Local Area Health Partnerships

From 1 July 2021, the Regional Area Health Partnerships have been integrated into Health Service Partnerships to preserve their important work while avoiding duplication. Funding for Regional Area Health Partnerships will continue but will be provided to rural and regional Health Service Partnerships for their management and oversight.

Local Area Health Partnerships will continue alongside Health Service Partnerships. Local Area Health Partnerships in rural and regional Victoria drive local collaboration at an operational level while also supporting the implementation of Health Service Partnership priorities in their local area.

About the guidelines

The Health Service Partnership policy and guidelines (Guidelines) set the framework and expectations for how Health Service Partnerships operate. These Guidelines supersede the Rural and Regional Health Partnership guidelines 2020 and cover both Health Service Partnerships and Local Area Health Partnerships. The Guidelines cover:

  • how Health Service Partnerships were established, including transitioning from clusters, and integrating Regional Area Health Partnerships
  • Health Service Partnership membership, structure, reporting, and decision making
  • how Health Service Partnerships should plan to demonstrate the impacts and outcomes of their work.