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Staying single in the 1990s: Single-handed practitioners in the new National Health Service

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Publication details

JournalSocial Science & Medicine
DatePublished - Aug 1997
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)341-349
Original languageEnglish


The U.K. health care system is organised around independent medical practitioners who work in community settings and act as gatekeepers for acute health interventions. Recent developments in U.K. health policy have revolutionised the environment within which all general medical practitioners (GPs) operate. The last five years in the U.K. have seen the most fundamental health service reforms since the inception of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1946: namely, the development of the internal market, an increasing emphasis on primary health care, and changes to the GP Contract in 1990. Single-handed GPs (practitioners not in partnership with other GPs) traditionally work in the most deprived areas with the greatest health and social problems. The current restructuring and the subsequent organisational and policy initiatives present particular problems for single-handed practitioners. How single-handed practitioners respond to the reforms raises particularly important debates that are significant both for themselves and for the populations they serve. Drawing upon a range of sources, this paper discusses three central issues that emerge. First, how do single-handed practices relate to the more managerial role envisaged for authorities responsible for supporting primary health care? Second, given the development of the internal market, how do single-handed practices fare in influencing local policy and priority setting? Third, to what extent can single-handed practitioners take advantage of the opportunities to hold their own budgets? Overall, in the context of recent U.K. health care reforms, what is the future for ''staying single in the 1990s''? Copyright (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.

    Research areas

  • general practice, single-handed practitioners, primary health care, GENERAL-PRACTICE

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