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Primary care in England: an era of austerity

General practitioners (GPs) in England are currently facing perhaps their most challenging financial circumstances since the NHS was founded in 1948. In an editorial published in the British Journal of General Practice, I discuss these the very difficult financial environment that general practitioners find themselves in. GPs will find themselves caught between the priorities of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and the NHS Commissioning Board; with CCGs requiring ever greater efficiencies in the use of secondary care services; and the NHS Commissioning Board demanding more ‘value for money’ from general practice contracts.

A strong primary care sector has allowed the NHS to make efficient use of resources, through the gatekeeping role that GPs have in controlling access to specialist services, and through the wide range of medical, social, and psychological problems that GPs and their teams manage through a mix of person-based and population-centred care. The impact of cuts in primary care spending on health inequities will be particularly important to monitor as increased resources for primary care preferentially improve health status and access to health care in more socially disadvantaged populations.

The NHS has always prided itself on the access to care it has given to the most socioeconomically deprived groups of the population, and this is a focus it should continue to retain even in the current, very difficult, financial circumstances that the NHS is experiencing.

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