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

Information and resources about healthcare for overseas visitors is on the NHS Inform website. 

Information about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is on the NHS website.

Help with health costs

We have published the latest information and guidance on health costs and charges.


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 to 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.

Primary care out of hours

Primary care out of hours services play a significant role in providing healthcare to the people of Scotland. Around 1 million consultations take place in the GP Out of Hours service every year, providing urgent care for people in the community who need to be seen by a clinician before the next routine care service is available. 

A national review of out of hours services was completed in November 2015. The review Pulling together: transforming urgent care for the people of Scotland, led by Sir Lewis Ritchie, made 28 recommendations. Since 2015 Integration Authorities, NHS Boards and others have been taking forward the recommendations. We have invested an additional £30 million since 2016/2017 towards the provision of out of hours services.

We established the National Out of Hours Oversight Group to address ongoing challenges. The group has brought together key partners to identify key priorities to make out of hours services more resilient and sustainable. 

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.


Much of the legislation around medicines is reserved to the UK Government. We work closely with the UK Government Department for Health and Social Care  on a number of issues.

The regulations involved for the approval of licensed are the Human Medicine Regulations 2012.

The Controlled Drugs (Supervision and Management of Use) Regulations 2006  were introduced as part of the UK Government’s response to the Shipman Inquiry. Scottish guidance was issued in the form of a CEL 

The Home Office updated their regulations and introduced the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment No.2) Regulations 2006.



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