The general practitioner (GP) occupies a key position in health care in the UK. Most everyday diagnosis and treatment is carried out by the GP. If your condition needs the attention of a specialist it is the GP who must make a referral for NHS treatment.
The GP can also act as a way in to the network of community care services.
The GP is the central member of the 'primary care team', a team of professionals from various health disciplines who work from a GP surgery or health centre. Other members of the team may include the district nurse, health visitor, practice nurse, community psychiatric nurse, chiropodist, therapists, social worker, receptionist and medical secretary.
General practitioners are independent self employed practitioners who can have a contract with the Health Authority/Board (formerly Family Health Services Authority) to provide services within the NHS.
There are just over 30,000 GPs in the United Kingdom, with an average list of 1,900 patients each. The number of GPs has increased (in 1970 there were only 24,000) and the number of patients per doctor is falling (in 1970 it was 2,400). 31 % of all GPs are female, compared to 19% ten years ago (and more than half of all trainee GPs are women). According to estimates produced by the Office of Health Economics, we visit our GP on average 4.4 times a year.