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Primary care is the bedrock of the NHS, with about 90% of all NHS contacts occurring in primary care.

Primary care in the UK is delivered by a highly trained workforce managing patients of all ages and with an almost unimaginably complex array of undifferentiated symptoms and medical and social problems. Research shows that countries with stronger primary care systems have better health outcomes, higher life expectancy, higher overall satisfaction with care, and lower overall healthcare costs. But primary care is experiencing unprecedented pressures and threats.

An ageing population, with increasing numbers of patients having multiple, complex conditions, and complex care being moved from hospital to primary care settings, has led to a dramatic increase in GP workload.

General practice was previously seen as one of the least glamorous medical careers, in part because of a perception that it is not as advanced, scientific, or technical as other medical specialties. However, modern primary care is highly complex and underpinned by rigorous, high-quality research. The UK leads the world in the quality of its primary care research, with publications in the highest-ranked international journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet – primary care research at Southampton is at the forefront of this.

The University of Southampton recently launched the new Primary Care Research Centre (PCRC). The Centre brings together researchers who are developing and evaluating innovative approaches to improving the delivery of primary healthcare, and the lives of those that utilise primary healthcare.

Primary care research at Southampton is not new, it has a track record of international excellence, but the Centre helps bring new focus, recognition, and opportunities for collaboration. PCRC is one of only nine primary care research groups in England that have been selected to be members of the prestigious NIHR School for Primary Care Research, which itself brings greater recognition, opportunities for collaboration, and resources.

Research in PCRC is organised into four key themes: Supporting self-management, Improving use of medicines, Diagnosis and prognosis, and Healthcare communication, with research groups working in these themes having regular themed meetings. The scope of research is broad, with key content areas including long term conditions, infections and antibiotics, healthy ageing and integrated healthcare.

PCRC researchers recognise the importance of collaborative research and have a long track record of successful collaboration with researchers, health professionals and public contributors from many disciplines and organisations, including public health, psychology, health sciences, and the Applied Research Collaboration and the Biomedical Research Centre.

A strong primary care is essential for the NHS and the future health of our nation. World-leading research, led by PCRC researchers, is helping to tackle the enormous challenges faced by primary care. These challenges will require innovations in biomedical science, technology, psychology, sociology, and data science. We are always interested in exploring new collaborations – if you think your research might be relevant to modern primary care, please get in touch.

For more information see:

Improving lives through primary healthcare research by Professor Nick Francis

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