The primary care recovery plan published today (May 9, 2023) responds to many of the issues the Patients Association has raised on patients’ behalf over the last few years. We welcome the plan and believe it will improve patients’ experience of primary care.

We are pleased that the evidence we provided about patients’ experiences and frustrations have been listened to. We thank the many patients who shared their stories with us for giving us the information to speak up for them.


The difficulties of getting through to the GP’s surgery are major issue for patients. In our survey published in March, of the patients who had struggled to access health services, half had struggled to get in touch with the service by phone or any other way. Our helpline advisers have heard pitiful stories of patients waiting in the early morning outside their practices in the hope of getting an appointment.

The plan recognises all this and puts in place alternatives to the ‘8am rush’. Patients will be able to do more for themselves.

  • Self-referral to services such as physiotherapy and podiatry will be possible.
  • Pharmacists will be able to prescribe for common conditions without a GP prescription.
  • By this time next year, 9 in 10 patients will be able – if they wish – to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and check online.

We are particularly pleased to see that NHS England is going to invest in digital telephony for GP practices. At the height of the pandemic, we called on the Government to release money to modernise general practice telephony, and although that didn’t happen then we’re pleased that funds are now being made available. Patients will be delighted that they no longer have to wait on hold for hours or turn up outside the surgery in the early morning. 


The plan talks about expanding the functionality of the NHS App, introducing tools to enable two-way messaging between patients and their practice, and triage are all welcome. We know from our recent work that patients find the NHS App and other digital tools useful.

We know that digital doesn’t suit every patient so NHS England’s commitment to parity between patients, no matter how they contact their practice. This is important to maintaining fairness.

Care navigators

Funding training of care navigators is excellent news. A trained primary-care based group of workers who can support patients to find the most appropriate professional to help them responds to suggestions we’ve made throughout the pandemic. We think this will really help patients’ timely access to appropriate care.

Secondary care

The offer of more joined up care for patients through closer work between GPs and hospital doctors is great news. Our recent work on improving referrals to hospital recommended establishing a three-way dialogue between the patient, GP, and the specialist to ensure patient partnership and shared decision making; the pilots mentioned in the plan show how this kind of approach works well for patients.


The expansion of services within pharmacy is welcome. The local pharmacy is already a source of great information for many patients. Enabling pharmacists to prescribe more and initiate treatments, expands choice for patients.


An important part of the plan is that it is funded and there will be national-level support for the practices that feel they need support to make the changes. The new communications tools will be funded, including the digital telephony.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “Having been part of the primary care transformation board that supported the development of the plan, I’m pleased to see how patients’ concerns have been addressed in it. It’s roll out across the UK will make a big difference to so many people.”