Unleash the potential of primary care

I’ve been privileged to spend much of the past fortnight thinking and talking about primary care and the value it brings to patients and populations. And it’s been just great, not least to be reminded of the breadth and depth of what’s good in UK general practice, as well as the reasons why I’m passionate about unleadhing more of the potential of primary care here and internationally.

I have Prof Rich Greenhill to thank for much of the impetus behind all this cogitating and celebrating. Rich hosts the Improve Healthcare podcast, which has a fantastic international reach, and he kindly asked me to contribute in a conversation about ‘unleashing the potential of primary care’.

Podcast: 'Unleashing the potential of primary care'

Listen to the podcast:


Improve Healthcare Podcast

Visit Rich’s website

But it’s not just this that has got my ‘shape of healthcare’ juices going recently. Conversations with practitioners, leaders and policy shapers in places as diverse as Alberta, Texas, Ontario and London have brought me repeatedly to the same conclusions:

  • the potential of primary care to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of individual people and local populations is absolutely huge
  • no country, region or system in the world is fully delivering the promise of that potential
  • there are constraints built into our healthcare systems, our medical schools, our practices and the minds of the public which are holding primary care back  from delivering its potential
  • most developed nations have become addicted to spending money on high tech, low yield specialist treatment that aims to cure – at a time when the growth areas in patient needs are in incurable, longterm conditions that can only be helped by taking a holistic perspective
  • although primary care right celebrates its holistic perspective on the needs of patients, we too need to change
    • we need a broader skillmix to turn that holistic perspective into holistic care. Just having nurses and doctors isn’t good medicine any more.
    • we need to redesign our work and working day to focus more on proactive care, not just reactive. Watiting for people to get sick(er) enough to contact the doctor isn’t good enough any more.
    • we need to connect more with our local communities, to catalyse wider changes that will improve health. Just treating patients as isolated individuals hasn’t ever been good enough.

I remain hugely proud to be a primary care doctor, and to have had a hand in shaping policy and practice for primary innovation and transformation in England over recent years. But I don’t want us to rest on our laurels. There’s more potential to unleash, and it’s going to continued effort from within primary care and from the system around us. 

I do hope you’ll join me in spreading the celebration and the call to action on this. 


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