• primary healthcare reform;
  • policy implementation;
  • health workforce;
  • SWOT analysis;
  • Portugal


The primary healthcare reform in Portugal is based on the development of a new management model and clinical governance framework. The objective is to strengthen primary healthcare services to reduce the inappropriate utilization of secondary and emergency services and to make efficiency gains and to better control costs. New interventions include the introduction of a system of production-based incentives for family health units. This paper presents an initial assessment of the implementation of the new policies and tries to explain the gap between its expected results and what was observed in the field 5 years later. We used a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis conducted in 12 regions, to collect the perceptions of members of Clinical Councils of Health Centers Groups, responsible for the implementation of the reform. The analysis looked at the dimensions of coverage, productivity, technical quality, and service quality. It identifies weaknesses in human resources management (shortages, incentives, team management) and lack of support from central and regional management. There is a perceived gap between the framework for reform as defined by law and the support made available for its implementation, leading to tensions between decision makers, managers, and health professionals. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.