Continuity of Care

Continuity of care can be defined as the extent to which a person experiences an ongoing relationship with a clinical team or member of a clinical team and the coordinated clinical care that progresses smoothly as the patient moves between different parts of the health service. 

It can consist of relational continuity – seeing the same people or team, management continuity – management and coordination of care and informational continuity – continuity of patient records and information. 

Continuity of care is a critical element of general practice, particularly, continuity of the personal relationship between patients and their general practitioner. Many patients are looking to general practice as the keepers of their story, the clinician or team of clinicians that know them and their circumstances.

Support Partnership with the Health Foundation 

In 2019, the Health Foundation launched a new funding programme to help to improve patient care and outcomes by exploring the potential to increase continuity of care within general practice. 

This programme is inspired by a study published in August 2018, conducted by the Health Foundation team. This study concluded that ‘strategies that improve the continuity of care in general practice may reduce secondary care costs, particularly for the heaviest users of healthcare […] and that promoting continuity might also improve the experience of patients and those working in general practice.1

Five projects were awarded up to £250,000 to carry out targeted quality improvement work over 18-24 months, to increase continuity in their practices. 

The Health Foundation and RCGP understand the pressures faced by professionals working in general practice and wanted to know whether an increased focus on continuity of care could help bring benefits to both staff and patients. 

RCGP’s role

As a support partner, RCGP will build relationships and facilitate peer support for the grantee sites through an online network and in-person workshops and site visits. We will also capture, develop and share best practice and learning with a wider community of practice interested in continuity of care in general practice. The RCGP will engage the community through an online platform and webinars.

The team will also create links to existing projects and communities within the RCGP, the Health Foundation, other professional bodies and more broadly.


To access our resources on continuity of care, please click here.



Patients who receive continuity of care in general practice have better health outcomes, higher satisfaction rates and the healthcare they receive is more cost effective . 

In 2011, the College published a 'Promoting Continuity of Care in General Practice' report demonstrating why continuity of care is important to general practice. The power of the therapeutic relationship between a clinician and a patient were considered and its importance in building trust, care and compassion were clear.

The RCGP's 'Continuity of care in modern day general practice' report published in 2016, expanded on this work. It asked whether continuity is still important in modern day practice and assessed how it can be delivered in the context of changing demographics, work patterns and models of care. In addition, the paper established key principles that general practice should adhere to, if continuity is to remain at the core of the primary care as it continues to evolve.

Following these two papers, we published our 'Fit for the Future' report in May 2019, setting out the RCGP’s vision for the future of general practice. The vision sets out that by 2030, while general practice will be operating at scale, the experience of care will not feel impersonal to patients. Continuity of care will remain a core value of general practice. GPs will still provide hands-on care and establish long-term, therapeutic relationships with patients, particularly with those with complex needs or multiple health conditions. Practice teams will work together to provide new forms of relational continuity – for example, between patients and micro-teams or named keyworkers – and all professionals involved in a patient’s care will be able to access their electronic care record.



  1. Barker. I; Steventon A.; Deeny. S 2017 ‘Association between continuity of care in general practice and hospital admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions: cross sectional study of routinely collected, person level data’, BMJ 356:j84



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