General practitioners (GPs) work with nurses and other staff to treat and advise on a range of illnesses, manage patients’ conditions in the community and refer patients to hospital treatment or social care where appropriate. Most of the contact that people have with the NHS is with their general practice, and this is the first step for most patients in diagnosing and treating health conditions. There are around 42,000 doctors employed in some 7,600 general practices in England. In 2015–16, £9.5 billion was spent on general practice, once the costs of out-of-hours services and dispensing drugs are included.
The Department is ultimately accountable for securing value for money from spending on general practice. Until April 2015, NHS England commissioned general practice services directly, but it is now delegating more responsibility to local clinical commissioning groups, with 88% (194 of 209) now having a greater role. Practices are typically owned and managed by an individual GP or group of GPs. Core general practice services are commissioned through contracts with GP practices, with most practices holding either a General Medical Services (GMS) contract (64% of practices) or a Personal Medical Services (PMS) contract (32% of practices). The contract stipulates core services that practices must provide, and core hours when patients should be able to access services. The Department and NHS England have a number of key objectives relating to access to general practice, including evening and weekend access for all patients by 2020 and 5,000 additional doctors in general practice by 2020.
25 April 2017