Our response to the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry on the future of General Practice.

Health systems with strong primary care as their foundation are more efficient, more cost effective, more equitable and have better patient outcomes than systems based on specialist care. In the NHS, general practice encourages good health – via screening and health promotion – and plays a key role in disease diagnosis, management and monitoring.

Pressures on general practice are long-standing, significant, and growing. Changing population health needs, including growing numbers of people with multiple chronic conditions, and requirements to deliver a wider range of services are compounded by longstanding workforce shortages. COVID-19 has made things worse. General practice is dealing with the clinical care of COVID-19 patients, addressing pent-up demand from lockdowns, delivering key elements of the vaccine programme, and supporting patients caught in secondary care backlogs. Meanwhile, general practice is expected to pay a central role in new Integrated Care Systems, expanding access to services via a broadened range of allied health professionals, and helping develop more integrated models of care.

This submission focusses on two related themes – access and equity – and makes the following key points:

  • Current pressures are unsustainable. GP workload and consultation rates are higher than pre-pandemic, but the number of permanent, fully-qualified GPs has fallen since 2015.
  • The biggest barrier to improving access to general practice is a lack of GPs. Current attempts to recruit GPs are unlikely to meet their targets. Recruitment and retention of GPs in socioeconomically deprived areas is particularly difficult. Core features of general practice – such as continuity of care – are threatened, but can be supported with focused action.
  • In areas of high deprivation, general practice is under-funded and under-doctored. General practices in poorer areas are less likely to perform well on all major markers of quality.
  • Current policies for funding and staffing general practice risk widening existing health inequalities. Focussed action to correct disparities in funding and workforce between deprived and affluent areas is urgently needed.

Further reading


Tackling the inverse care law

January 2022

Without deliberate policy action, inequities in the availability of high-quality general practice in...


Are we seeing the decline of general practice, or its rebirth? – with Professor Katherine Checkland, Dr Rebecca Fisher and Shaun Lintern


Episode 14. Even before the pandemic, rising workloads and workforce shortages had left many GPs...

You might also like...


Health Services Research UK Conference 2022


The Health Foundation is supporting HSR UK’s 15th annual conference on 5–7 July 2022, contributing...

Press release

Plan for Digital Health and Social Care contains important ambitions, but tackling workforce and capacity pressures will be the key to realising the vision

Press release

Health Foundation response to the publication of the government’s Plan for Digital Health and Social...


LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022


The Health Foundation will be exhibiting at the LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022 event on...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Better use of tech and data offers significant potential to drive faster improvement in health and care. Will the G… https://t.co/y10GKFdvaU

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more