Universal general practice improvement support

Modern general practice

General practice is the bed rock of the NHS. In response to the twin challenges of rising volume and increasing complexity of need, a wide range of general practices across England have innovated and have created the principles of ‘modern general practice’. These elements have been set out in NHS England’s Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care.

Modern general practice is the foundation of a transformation journey to better align capacity with need, improve patient experience and improve the working environment for general practice staff by:

  • optimising contact channels; offering patient choice of access channel (telephone, online and in person) via highly usable and accessible practice websites, online consultation tools and improved telephone systems.
  • structured information gathering at the point of patient contact (regardless of contact channel) to understand what is being asked of the service.
  • using one care navigation (and workflow) process across all access channels to assess and prioritise need safely and fairly, and to efficiently get patients to the right healthcare professional or service, in the appropriate time frame (including consideration of continuity of care) moving away from a ‘first come first served approach’.
  • better allocating existing capacity to need, making full use of a multi-professional primary care team, community services and ‘self access’ options where appropriate, and helping GPs and practice staff to optimise use of their time to where it’s needed most.
  • building capability in general practice teams to work together and to access, understand and use data, digital tools and shared knowledge to lead, plan, implement, improve and sustain change.

Modern general practice uses digital tools, transformation support, funding and  incentives as part of a system wide delivery plan, which also includes expansion of clinical pharmacy and improvements across the primary care-secondary care interface to support general practice sustainability and primary care transformation.

‘How to’ guides to support modern general practice

These 5 ‘how to’ guides support general practice teams to:

  • better align capacity with need
  • improve care navigation
  • improve telephony journeys
  • improve online journeys for patients
  • improve care-related processes.

They provide know-how and learning from practices and primary care networks across the country about tested new systems, processes and approaches that are helping the transformation to modern general practice. They support all practices and primary care networks to adapt this shared knowledge to their local context and realise the benefits more quickly and easily. In particular, they help ensure patients get the care they need, from the most appropriate health professional, first time.

Many practices have already benefited from hands-on support to move towards modern general practice from the national General Practice Improvement Programme.

The guides

1. How to improve care navigation in general practice – helps practices create or improve a single care navigation model or process so patient requests by phone, online or in person are directed to the right care professional first time. It helps practices make full use of a multi-professional practice team and other local health services. The guide also helps practices to effectively integrate online consultation, messaging and appointment booking tools into their practice workflow.

This guide is accompanied by a skills matrix template tool.

Published 8 May 2024.

2. How to align capacity with demand in general practice – helps practices measure and understand daily patterns of patient contacts and type of need in order to forecast how much and what type of capacity is needed on any given day. Practices can use this data to review rotas and clinics, to help smooth peaks and troughs and better align capacity to need, giving practice teams back a sense of control.

This guide is accompanied by the following tools:

Published 8 May 2024.

3. How to improve telephony journeys in general practice – helps practices shorten call queues and improve patient journeys using call-backs, recorded messages, signposting, keypad and voice options.

Published 8 May 2024.

4. Creating highly usable and accessible GP websites for patients – helps improve online journeys for patients via GP websites and apps, making it easier for patients to request the help they need, including using online forms to request medical care, ordering repeat prescriptions online and accessing other administrative help.

This guide is accompanied by the GP website benchmarking and improvement tool.

Published 22 September 2022.

5. How to improve care-related processes in general practice – helps practices manage common processes more efficiently; including new and repeat prescriptions, long-term condition recalls and new patient registrations.

Published 8 May 2024.

You can also watch a series of webinars on FutureNHS (requires login) exploring different elements of modern general practice.

What other support is available?

Practices can also access nationally-funded flexible, practical, hands-on support to help them with modern general practice from NHS England’s national General Practice Improvement Programme by contacting their integrated care board.

This support is available to a proportion of practices identified as most benefitting by their ICB, alongside locally available offers, as part of the transition to system-owned delivery of support.


If you have any questions or would like to send feedback on the guides, please get in touch: england.pctgpip@nhs.net

If you want to learn more about modern general practice and the General Practice Improvement Programme you can watch this video from Dr Minal Bakhai, GP and our National Director for Primary Care Transformation, on FutureNHS (requires login).

Demand and capacity webinar sessions for general practices and primary care networks

The demand and capacity webinar series has been designed to help participants gain a deeper and practical understanding of what demand and capacity are and consequent issues that occur. The sessions consider how general practices can use this information to better manage services and how it can aid practices and PCNs in designing more robust needs-based services. There are four webinars in each series. Each webinar is 90 minutes and is held online using MS Teams.

National care navigation training for general practice staff

The Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, committed to training 6,500 general practice staff (one person from every practice in the country) in care navigation skills. Practice and PCN managers can nominate one member of staff, ideally reception staff and care navigators involved in managing patient requests, to complete the virtual care navigation training. It’s anticipated that this will be a popular programme and that spaces will fill up quickly.

On completion, individuals will be confident to communicate effectively with patients and be able to signpost to the most relevant team member or local services depending on patient needs. An advanced training offer will be available at a later date for those with experience of care navigation who can support and embed it into practices and networks for sustainability and standardisation. If you have any questions or would like more information, visit the Care navigation training online space on FutureNHS (login required).