About 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.

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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 key workers – and all professionals involved in a patient’s care will be able to access their electronic care record.

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