Overview: Urgent Care in General Practice

The GP practice is the first place that most people go when they have a health problem.  Nationally, about 100 million same day appointments are made in about 8,000 practices across England, about a third of the overall visits to practices in a year.

A small change in general practice can have a significant impact on flows to other parts of the urgent care system.  Effective and timely responses in General Practice benefit patients and reduce acute referrals to Hospital.  Ensuring General Practice develops a rapid and effective response in every practice should be a fundamental part of every urgent care strategy.

In May 2009 a report ‘Urgent Care in General Practice’ commissioned by the Department of Health and with the widespread backing of the profession was sent to all practices, PCTs and SHAs in England (for full report click HERE).

We have spent the last 6 years developing support for practices so that they can translate our findings into a clearer understanding of how they currently work, how this compares to others and potential opportunities to improve care.  Central to our approach has been developing a web based tool that allows practices across the Country to submit a week of practice data providing us with information about calls, appointments as well as questions about how they work in the practice. We put this alongside other information, including patient experience from the latest General Practice Patient Survey and the relative deprivation of the practice population. We also have developed a ‘reception quiz’ that looks at variation in response to potentially urgent calls across the reception team. We then prepare a report that analyses the practice’s performance on access and urgent care, how this compares to others across the Country and offers some practical suggestions for making improvements.

Interest continues to grow in understanding how practices manage access and urgent care and we have worked or are currently working with nearly 1,500 practices, or approaching 1 in 5 of all practices across England.

For an independent view of our developing work with practices on access and urgent care CLICK HERE for the article in the HSJ on 24th November 2011 ‘Improving Urgent Care: The beast of many heads – the continuing assault from spiralling admissions is just one of the myriad pressures that have created a monstrous challenge for urgent care services to defeat, writes Catherine Blackledge

And below is a video developed by Dudley CCG after we had worked with all of their local practices, acknowledging the frustrations of many patients in accessing GPs and explaining the steps they have taken to improve both access and care for patients.


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About Us

The Primary Care Foundation was established to support the development of best practice in primary and urgent care.  The three Directors bring different skills and perspectives to understanding primary and urgent health care - for more details click below:

David Carson

Rick Stern

Henry Clay



Latest News

New on-line registration for the potentially avoidable appointments audit

The Primary Care Foundation were selected by NHS England to further improve and automate the audit of potentially avoidable appointments. We are now building a new website with Method Analytics that will make it much easier for any practice to register online, will simplify data collection for clinicians, and will allow for instant reporting on results. The reports will be much easier to understand and will signpost other support. And it will remain free to use for all practices in England.

We are now ready to go live with a new ‘test’ site. We are confident it is already easier to use but we are keen to get any feedback from practices before the new website is fully up and running.

If you are a practice in England and you want to register, CLICK HERE  and click on ‘register here to create a practice audit!’ You will be guided through registration and how to set up your clinicians to take part in the audit.  This is a new test site, so if you notice anything that doesn’t look right, or could be made easier, just let us know.  And the same for your clinicians as they enter data – any feedback at the moment – good or bad – would be really helpful … just email us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


What do we mean by an ‘avoidable appointment?

The latest blog by Rick Stern ‘If only …’ explores the idea of avoidable appointments, what practices have gained from the audit, and what might be possible with further investment in general practice. It is available HERE and will also be published in Health Care Leader.


Are there any simple lessons for practices looking to improve access?

A feature article in Management in Practice by Rick Stern reviews what we have learned from working with over 1,500 practices across the UK – you can read the full article HERE  


Integrated Urgent Care – how to make NHS 111 work

A lead article for Health Care Leader by Henry Clay describes a financial and capacity model developed for NHS England, the potential benefits and pitfalls, and what we have learned from working with a dozen areas to apply the model. The article is available at HERE and a fuller version with a number of explanatory graphs can be downloaded HERE


Integrated Urgent Care – opportunity for support to your locality

We have developed a financial model for the Integrated Urgent Care Team at NHS England that focuses on the NHS 111 and OOH ‘front end’ to an integrated urgent care system (but also looks at the cost of onward referrals to other services). This is proving to be an invaluable tool for both commissioners and providers. It is now available to use and NHS England have also agreed to support some sites to setup and work through the model with PCF’s Henry Clay who developed the model. For further information please contact Henry on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


We are now supporting over 1,500 practices across the UK to manage access and urgent care

Our support for general practices looking to improve access for patients and streamline the management of urgent care continues to expand. Based on a web based tool, developed out of our work commissioned by the Department of Health, we collect practice data for one week and prepare a report for each practice looking at how you compare to others and explore what this means for making practical changes in the way you work. We are regularly improving the format of our reports for practices based on constant feedback. If you would like to see an example report, CLICK HERE.  If you want to know more about how we might work with you please contact Rick Stern on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call on 07709 746771.