Radical changes needed to deliver primary care fit for the 21st century, says Holyrood Committee


A radical revision of primary care is essential to ensure the next generation of citizens receive the care they need, according to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.

In a report published today, the Committee say the traditional 9-5, 5 days a week service must become a thing of the past, replaced with a new model shaped around users’ needs. They urge the health service to fully embrace technology, enabling better data sharing and monitoring, to deliver a 21st century system fit for patients.

The Committee’s report is the culmination of a two-year inquiry into the future of primary care. The innovative inquiry was centred around members of the public with their views shaping the inquiry. The first phase of the inquiry, published in July 2019, revealed the public’s desire and support for a transformation in how services are accessed and delivered.

The inquiry has highlighted the growing costs and demands on the health service due to an ageing population and their more complex health needs, as well as an obesity epidemic and stark health inequalities in Scotland’s most deprived areas.

The Committee’s report questions the Government’s commitment to recruit at least 800 more GPs by 2030. They say the emphasis should instead be placed on committing to appropriate recruitment of professional staff across multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs), including both GPs and other professions, which can deliver the intended benefits to primary care as a whole.

Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener Lewis Macdonald MSP said:

“It is clear that when it comes to primary care the status quo is no longer an option. Existing ways of delivering care are not only financially unsustainable but have failed to keep pace with modern life.

“We need to radically rethink primary care so that we can ensure our citizens receive the best possible care for generations to come.

“We must move away from the automatic provision of prescriptions and towards social prescribing. There must be widespread adoption of a preventative model of delivering care and the health service must fully embrace new technology.”

“A fundamental shift is also required in how the public and health professionals view General Practice. Instead of GPs being seen as the provider of all services, a new approach should be adopted where other health professionals, who are often better placed and equipped to help and support people can do so."

He added:

“Our inquiry has been driven by hearing directly from the public about the primary care services they want, need and require and the Committee wants to thank all who took part in our public forums and shared their views.”

The Committee say a focus on prevention needs to be prioritised and mainstreamed, but for this to be a success it goes beyond just the health service. They identify the importance of local communities in delivering good health outcomes and say there is a clear desire amongst the public for connected communities, with spaces that give people opportunities to become active and socialise, and to connect to the local natural environment.

Widespread adoption of video consulting service ‘Near Me’ during the Covid-19 pandemic has been commended although the Committee has expressed reservations that default use could deepen health inequalities.



Recognising there have been multiple developments within Primary Care Services in recent times the Committee agreed it was appropriate they should look at the provision of services and approaches. The principal aims were to consider whether services were meeting current needs and how they should be provided in future.

The inquiry was split in two parts. Part 1 of the inquiry was focused on hearing from members of the public about how they felt services should be accessed and delivered.

Part 2 of the inquiry took those views to a wide range of health professionals involved in primary care, asking how they considered services could evolve in line with the needs and wishes of the users. The report can be found here.

The Part 1 report is available here: https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/Committees/Report/HS/2019/7/3/What-should-primary-care-look-like-for-the-next-generation-#Introduction

You can learn more about the work of the Health and Sport Committee on the Scottish Parliament website.

Media information

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Committee information

For further information on this inquiry please contact David Cullum, Clerk to the Health and Sport Committee –


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