Primary care is the first point of contact with the NHS. This includes contact with community based services provided by general practitioners (GPs), community nurses, dentists, dental nurses, optometrists, dispensing opticians, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. It can also be with allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, midwives and pharmacists.

We are working to transform primary care services so we can better meet changing needs and demands.


Find more information on our work on transforming primary care services in the following areas: 

More information about our work relating to the following professions is in our health workforce policy:

Information about pharmacy and medicines is in our website archive.

Information about our work to improve social care support is in a separate policy.


Our vision for the future of primary care services is for multidisciplinary teams to work together to support people in the community and free up GPs to spend more time with patients in specific need of their expertise.

This new approach focuses on multidisciplinary team working. This will reduce pressures on services and ensure improved outcomes for patients with access to the right professional, at the right time, as near to home as possible.

We are investing £161.5 million in 2019-2020 to support implementation of the new GP contract and wider primary care reform, including support for the development of the primary care multidisciplinary team.

Our commitments include:

  • increasing the number of GPs working in Scotland by at least 800 in the next ten years
  • investing £6.9 million in general practice and district nursing so more people are cared for closer to their homes
  • investing £3 million to train an additional 500 advanced nurse practitioners by 2021
  • training an additional 1,000 paramedics by 2021
  • investing 250 Link workers in general practice over the course of the Parliament
  • ensuring all GP practices will have access to a pharmacist

We published our health and social care delivery plan in December 2016. This plan identified six long-term outcomes that support the delivery of our vision:

  • we are more informed and empowered when using primary care
  • our primary care services better contribute to improving population health
  • our experience of primary care is enhanced
  • our primary care workforce is expanded, more integrated and better co-ordinated with community and secondary care
  • our primary care infrastructure – physical and digital – is improved
  • primary care better addresses health inequalities

We formed a national programme board to provide strategic oversight of the actions identified in the plan.

We published our national health and social care workforce plan (part three) in April 2018. This part of the plan sets out how primary care services are in a strong position to respond to the changing and growing needs of our population.

We published our national monitoring and evaluation strategy for primary care in March 2019. It will help to ensure that we understand what works, where, for whom and why, and at scale, and have the evidence needed to shape sustainable policy and service developments.

In August 2019 we published our first annual work plan for delivering our ten year national monitoring and evaluation strategy for primary care.

Bills and legislation

The Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2004 amended The National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 by placing a duty on NHS Boards to provide or secure 'primary medical services' for their populations.