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What is
primary care?

Primary care encompasses a wide range of services, typically delivered in the local community by general practitioners (GPs), pharmacists, dentists, optometrists and other healthcare professionals.

A definition of primary care

The definition in the national primary care plan [opens in new window] in Wales is:

“Primary care is about those services which provide the first point of care, day or night for more than 90% of people’s contact with the NHS in Wales.”

“General practice is a core element of primary care: it is not the only element – primary care encompasses many more health services, including, pharmacy, dentistry, and optometry.”

“It is also – importantly – about coordinating access for people to the wide range of services in the local community to help meet their health and wellbeing needs.”

Many GPs, pharmacists, dentists and optometrists work as independent contractors. Click here for details of the primary care contracts covering NHS staff in Wales [opens in new window].

Whilst this report aims to cover primary care in its broad sense, most of the publically available data in Wales focuses on general practice, which has consequently shaped the focus of some sections of this report.

Why is primary care important?

First point of contact

Spending on primary care

Primary care is the first port of call for the majority of people who use health services.

In 2016-17, the NHS in Wales spent £1.39 billion on primary care, which is around a fifth of the total NHS spending in Wales.

Prevention and early intervention

Coordinating care

Primary care is also important because of its focus on promoting well-being, early intervention and preventing people’s conditions from getting worse.

Primary care plays an important role in co-ordinating people’s care, acting as a gateway to many other services.

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