What is Primary Care?
Primary care services provide the first point of contact in the healthcare system, acting as the ‘front door’ of the NHS. Primary care includes general practice, community pharmacy, dental, and optometry (eye health) services.
Primary care professionals, such as GPs, practice nurses or pharmacists, help take care of the basics of care, focusing on preventing illness, making diagnoses and treating conditions that don’t need hospital care.
The aim of primary care is to provide an easy, accessible route to care. Primary care professionals help treat common minor illness and long-term conditions. They also help to prevent future ill-health through advice, immunisation, and screening programmes. Family planning and sexual health services are also part of primary care, and don’t need a GP referral.
In the NHS, the main source of primary health care is general practice. GPs deal with a broad range of physical, mental, and emotional problems rather than specialising in a particular disease. As well as finding out what’s causing a person’s symptoms, GPs also act on behalf of the patient as an advocate, making sure that people who are living with health problems get all the care they need. Depending on the health problem, patients may be referred by the GP to hospital or to a specialist.