Digital primary care: Improving access for all? Rapid evidence review

With so many changes to way patients access care at their GP surgery, including a shift to online booking, 'total triage', and remote consultations - are these changes to primary care a move in the right direction? This evidence review looks at international and UK evidence to draws together key insights for policy-makers and GP practices.

Ensuring everyone can access health services on an equal footing is a key priority for the NHS. It is already clear that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the wider impacts of changes to the accessibility and delivery of care arising in response to it, are likely to be a strong driver of widening health inequalities for many years to come. But we have yet to grasp how rapid changes in access to and the delivery of primary care might also play into this.

This rapid review uses Cochrane methods to draws together the evidence on the subject in order to provide key insights along with lessons for policy makers and GP practices.

Overall, the evidence we reviewed suggests that the implementation of virtual primary care in its form to date is not enabling equal access to care and – because of this – much of the potential for digital care to help mitigate inequalities in health care is being lost. This represents something of a missed opportunity for primary care and for health policy. 

Suggested citation

Paddison CAM and McGill I (2022) Digital primary care: Improving access for all? Rapid evidence review. Nuffield Trust.