Leaders of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have called on the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Health Ministers for a UK-wide vision for the future of the NHS and patient care.

General practice is "mission critical" to the future of the NHS, the GP leaders tell the Ministers, in a joint statement signed by RCGP Chair of Council Dr Clare Gerada, Dr John Gillies (Chair of Scottish Council), Dr Paul Myres (Chair of Welsh Council) and Professor Scott Brown (Chair of Northern Ireland Council). They call on the Ministers to take a forward approach for the NHS based on a set of 10 core underlying principles which apply across national borders and which build on the strengths of general practice to meet the challenges facing the NHS.

Acknowledging the individual differences between the health services in the different countries, the GP leaders identify the shared challenges and how specific solutions can be tailored to each nation. They ask the Ministers to "invest" in general practice and build on its strengths by: - providing more care in the community; - providing more GPs, spending more time with patients and extending GP training; - integrating health and social care; - greater involvement of clinicians in decisions about how services are planned; - recognising the value of Generalism; and - achieving change, working in collaboration across health and social care.

In return, they say, GPs across the UK are committed to: - providing high-quality, evidence-informed holistic care to their patients and to families in their communities, responsive to their needs; - working across organisational and professional boundaries with colleagues in primary and secondary care to collaborate to provide integrated care; - offering continuity in partnership with patients and their carers; - respecting the trust placed in GPs by patients, principally through face-to-face consultations but also acknowledging the different modes of engagement which technology facilitates; and - making the best use of finite resources.

"We believe that across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there is clear evidence that investing in primary care and involving GPs in shaping and designing services will be essential to meeting the future needs of patients and communities whilst protecting the principles of the NHS," the GP leaders tell the Health Ministers. 

A vision is needed that builds on the strengths of general practice and the trust which the public places in it, and unlocks its potential to deliver improved, more cost-effective patient care, they say, and tell Ministers: "the College is ready to take this vision forward in collaboration with local and national government, patients and healthcare stakeholders across primary and secondary are services." 

"We must focus on the real task at hand - that of creating a health service fit for the 21st century, underpinned by evidence of what works and the challenge to all concerned to work differently for the sake of their patients," the College leaders conclude.