About RCGP

We are the professional membership body for GPs in the UK. Our purpose is to encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards in general medical practice. We support GPs through all stages of their career, from medical students considering general practice, through to training, qualified years and retirement.

An aerial shot of the RCGP foundation wall

Definition of a GP

Published 19 October 2023:

A GP is a doctor who is a consultant in general practice. GPs have distinct expertise and experience in providing whole person medical care whilst managing the complexity, uncertainty and risk associated with the continuous care they provide. GPs work at the heart of their communities, striving to provide comprehensive and equitable care for everyone, taking into account their health care needs, stage of life and background. GPs work in, connect with and lead multidisciplinary teams that care for people and their families, respecting the context in which they live, aiming to ensure all of their physical and mental health needs are met.

GPs and their patients   

Through confidential trusted partnerships with their patients (characterised by empathy and mutual trust, without bias or judgement), GPs provide evidence informed personalised care in the community in an accessible way. Whether remotely or in person, they lead, support, and embrace innovation in medicine and technology, whilst working as an advocate for their patients and the population, to optimise the care they provide. 

Outside the practice   

As consultants in general practice, GPs can contribute to healthcare in many other ways beyond the GP surgery. They may work in local, regional, and national medical leadership and commissioning roles, undertake research and provide education, work in extended clinical roles or provide 24-hour, 365-day care within organisations who cover patient care outside standard GP opening hours.

Strategic plan 2023 to 2026: Building a sustainable future for general practice

In 2019, the College published Fit for the Future, our vision for the future of general practice in ten years' time. We looked to a future in which GPs would continue to deliver whole person, relationship-based care, but with a manageable workload and a wider multi-disciplinary workforce, collaborating across boundaries and utilising improved premises and technology to deliver new services, promote wellbeing, and tackle health inequalities.

Since then, the landscape in which GPs and their teams are operating has become even more difficult. COVID-19 has created additional service pressures, and there is a persistent and growing gap between workforce capacity and patient need. At the same time, society as a whole is facing huge challenges, with the cost of living and energy crises, political and economic uncertainty, and the growing impacts of the climate emergency. These factors are putting our members and their patients under enormous strain, and GPs are continuing to leave the profession faster than they enter it.

If we are to achieve our vision, we need to respond to these challenges and to ensure that the work of the profession, the College, and the care that general practice provides to patients are sustainable. By the end of the next three years, we would seek to be in a position where there are no longer more GPs leaving the profession than entering it; the College is seen by the majority of GPs as being their ‘professional home’; we have strong alliances with other stakeholders in both health inequalities and sustainable healthcare; and we have provided guidance to both GPs working in practices and ICBs/clusters on how to move forwards constructively in realising these strategic priorities.

Over the next three years, the College will work to achieve these goals by holding ourselves accountable to, and re-focussing our resources to deliver, the following priorities.

Priority 1: Tackle the workload and workforce crisis

We must break the vicious cycle of a shrinking workforce and an ever-increasing workload. Only by doing this can we make general practice an attractive career and halt the current exodus of GPs. This is necessary not only to protect the mental health and wellbeing of GPs, but as a matter of patient safety and to ensure the future sustainability of general practice, and the NHS itself.

We know that patients value general practice, yet because of the pressures on accessing appointments, satisfaction with the service that it provides has declined significantly. If the profession is to retain the support and trust of the public, we must engage with patients to reinvigorate the doctor-patient relationship, and to ensure that they know how and when to access care. We must also involve them in supporting the development of new models of service provision, such as the introduction of new roles and the use of digital technology.

We will do this by taking the following action:

GP workforce and workload
  • Highlight the pressures on general practice and provide solutions that can be adopted into political manifestos and by the NHS, in line with the requirements documented in the RCGP's Fit for the Future campaign.
  • Campaign for a funded plan to increase the size of the GP workforce over the long-term, by increasing the number of UK-trained medical students who enter GP training and supporting retention of GPs through a national GP Retention Programme.
  • Lobby for initiatives to boost GP retention at all career stages, including the development of enhanced support for newly qualified GPs, and promotion of innovative retention schemes for mid- and late-career GPs.
  • Develop measures to tackle unmanageable workload, reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and prevent the un-resourced transfer of workload from secondary to primary care.
Multi-disciplinary teams
  • Work in partnership with other organisations and professional bodies to develop a College offer to members of the wider general practice team.
  • Promote the effective utilisation of the multi-disciplinary team in general practice to deliver high quality patient care and to relieve workload pressures.
  • Engage in discussions on the potential for specialty and associate specialist doctor roles in general practice and develop national standards for the accreditation and supervision of these, while championing the unique role of the GP.
Public communication and impact
  • Work with patient groups to improve public understanding of general practice, and to support practices in communicating with patients about how and when to access GP services.
  • Identify and promote good practice in the development and implementation of patient access, to provide an efficient and patient-centred service.

Priority 2: Ensure the College is the professional home of general practice

The College must be the professional home for all GPs, where they can access the resources, support, and professional friendships they need to flourish in their careers and invest in their professional future. We need to equip our members with the skills they require to deliver complex care in a challenging environment and to promote a culture of inclusion within the profession.

We will do this by taking the following action:

  • Ensure the College is a welcoming professional home to all our trainees, members, and fellows, following the principles of equality, diversity, and inclusivity, and fostering increased diversity of representation within the College.
  • Strengthen the College's membership offer to GP trainees and develop and launch a new MRCGP examination.
  • Enhance and expand the College’s continuing professional development offer, ensuring it remains relevant and contemporary.
  • Play a leading role in tackling the barriers and discrimination faced by international medical graduates and ethnic minority GPs throughout their careers.
  • Improve support and networking opportunities for grassroots GPs by expanding the reach of the College's local Faculties, mentoring programme and online communities.

Priority 3: Reduce the increasing gap in health inequalities

As family practitioners, GPs sit at the heart of their communities and have a unique understanding of their patients and the realities they face. In the context of growing health inequalities, and the adverse impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, the profession must act to protect those most at risk, by identifying and prioritising their needs and advocating on their behalf.

We will do this by taking the following action:

At GP/practice level: education, training, guidance and support
  • Increase awareness amongst GPs and their teams of health inequalities and the impact of wider determinants of health.
  • Develop guidance on practical steps GPs and practices can take, to tackle health inequalities of access and clinical outcomes and improve population health, focussing on the most vulnerable groups within practices’ localities.
  • Ensure that health inequalities remain well-covered within the RCGP curriculum and within the MRCGP examination.
At Cluster/ICB/national level: health policy
  • Support the development of networks of GPs and practices engaged in tackling health inequalities, working with local communities and third sector partners.
  • Identify and share good practice in reducing health inequalities of access, experience and clinical outcomes, and shape national health policy initiatives to foster and support its adoption.
  • Work with external stakeholders to advocate for those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis and campaign for decisive government action to close the health inequalities gap.
  • Develop an advocacy strategy that raises awareness of the social determinants of health amongst policymakers and NHS leaders.
At RCGP level
  • Support the growth of an engaged and inclusive health inequalities group, and connections with relevant external organisations such as the Inequalities in Health Alliance.
  • Support links with Deep End practices across the UK.

Priority 4: Respond to the climate emergency

The climate and ecological emergency poses a threat not only to the future of the planet but to our health and the NHS too. Greener general practice can improve health outcomes, decrease workload and reduce health inequalities. The College has an important role in supporting members and general practice in delivering a critical strand of the NHS's target of net zero, and addressing the wider holistic issues encompassed by planetary health.

We will do this by taking the following action:

At GP/practice levels: education, training and support
  • Increase awareness amongst GPs of the health impacts of planetary health and of the ways in which carbon emissions, air pollution, pharmaceuticals in water and other environmental threats affect health.
  • Support practices to deliver reductions in carbon emissions and improvements in care, according to planetary health principles, through the primary care development net zero programme and other related tools.
  • Ensure that planetary health is well established in the RCGP curriculum and within the MRCGP examination.
At cluster/ICB/national level: health policy
  • Engage with ICBs in England and clusters in the devolved nations to raise awareness and encourage delivery of sustainable healthcare in general practice.
  • As part of the College's policy and campaigning work, incorporate clear policy asks to support general practice to improve the energy efficiency of its estates and implement climate adaptation strategies.
  • Contribute to efforts to reduce general practice's carbon footprint by lobbying, engaging and advising on sustainable prescribing.
At RCGP level
  • Deliver significant near- and medium-term reductions in the College's carbon emissions on a path to global net zero by 2050.
  • Support the development of an engaged and inclusive sustainable healthcare special interest group, and connections with relevant external organisations such as the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and Greener Practice.

Our mission and values

Our mission is to encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards of patient care in general practice, across the UK and worldwide.

We do this by working with our members: to define the skills that GPs need; to provide them with education and support to deliver quality patient care; to shape the future of general practice; and to be the voice of the profession.

Our values describe the principles that guide us as we work to achieve our mission. We strive to demonstrate:

  • Compassion – for our patients, the populations we serve, our members, our colleagues and ourselves.
  • Inclusivity – we value diversity as part of our communities and treat each individual with equal respect.
  • Sustainability – we look to the future and care about the long-term wellbeing of our members and colleagues, our profession, our patients and the world around us.
  • Accountability – we take responsibility for the results of our actions and continuously strive to be the best that we can be.
  • Integrity – we are honest, open-minded, ethical, evidence-based and fair.

Annual report and accounts

Gender pay gap report