Understanding the changing face of primary care The traditional roles of general practitioners and pharmacists in the UK are changing. Pharmacies are being encouraged to evolve into centres that promote healthy living and provide an improved range of clinical services, while still maintaining their traditional role of dispensing medicines. Management of outpatients is increasingly shifting from secondary to primary care, and “polyclinics”, providing a much wider range of services than is currently provided by most GP practices, are being planned for some parts of the country. The increasing role of online pharmacy in medicines delivery is further affecting the equilibrium of traditional roles.

This reassessment of roles and responsibilities is highlighting tensions and inequalities in the system and begs the question of how patients will understand all this complexity..

On page 4, Joy Persaud takes the patient’s perspective and considers whether all this choice will actually help or hinder patients in their quest for the healthcare they want.

On page 6, our round table participants consider how we can balance the need for a simple and easy-to-understand system with the need to be flexible and complex enough to deal with the needs of all patients.

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