Primary / Secondary Care Interface Working


A poorly functioning interface can have an adverse impact on the efficiency of the healthcare system. Through various methods of research a number of factors adversely impacting on interface working were identified. These include:

  • The absence of formal processes or support to gather data (for example, from Significant Event Analyses) to encourage two-way learning and information sharing, which could potentially bring about wider system improvements
  • The loss of inter-professional relationships resulting in less functional communication between primary-secondary care
  • The presence of incompatible and unreliable IT systems adversely impacting the ability to share clinical data efficiently and safely

In early 2018, RCGP Scotland gained support and funding through the Scottish Government Improving General Practice Sustainability Advisory Group for a three year project to support the establishment or development of primary-secondary care Interface Groups in each Health Board area.

In recognition that different Health Boards and HSCPs vary in their approach, their culture, their geography and their experience of interface, a flexible and tailored approach, rather that a 'one size fits all' will be taken. It is intended that these groups, in collaboration with key others in their local areas, will offer a clinician-led, solution-focused approach to addressing interface issues relevant to them.

In addition, improving interface working is an important facet of the new GMS contract, and College input in the Improving General Practice Sustainability Advisory Group has been instrumental in promoting this view. The contract document states:

"Improving interface working: to ensure effective working between primary and secondary care, we will continue to implement the recommendations of the Improving General Practice Sustainability Advisory Group as set out in its report on November 2016.

"Within the recommendations there are a number of broad themes including effective primary and secondary care interface working. Interface working will be better achieved through well-functioning primary and secondary care interface groups. These groups will support NHS Boards and HSCPs to reduce GP workload and provide a better patient experience by removing the need for GP involvement when it is not clinically necessary."

BMA / RCGP Scotland Joint Principles Statement "Whole System Working - The Interface in Scotland"

In November 2020, the BMA and RCGP Scotland produced a joint principles statement [PDF] to set out the key principles required to achieve effective whole systems working.

Support Pack Materials

To support Interface Groups or other groups with an interface remit, we have developed a pack of support materials that will be amended and added to over the time of the project. Currently the support pack includes:

These documents are to provide a basic generic outline and can be taken and amended by Interface Groups to make them relevant in their local area. If there are at other materials that you would find useful, please email and we will do our best to support this.

Learning from one another

We are very keen to develop a virtual support network of Interface Group Leads across Scotland to encourage the effective sharing of learning. We have produced newsletters giving an update on how the project is progressing and useful links to useful resources and tried to follow up with Webinars, but are currently looking at new ways of sharing learning more efficiently.  

Background Reading 

Improving Together: A National Framework for Quality and GP Clusters

The Modern Out-Patient: A Collaborative Approach 2017 - 2020 [doc]

Patient's Perspectives of Primary Secondary Care Interface (Sampson, R) [doc]

Qualitative Study of Relationships between GPs and Hospital Consultants (Sampson, R) [doc]

Educational Intervention to Improve the Interface (Sampson, R) [doc]

This page will be updated as the project develops, so please keep visiting and let us know if there is anything you would find useful to be included. Email

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