Children and Families Policy Research Unit


NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit


Access to Primary Care

Association between primary care provision and outcomes among children and young people in England: a mixed-methods study (January 2022 – December 2023)

Research Team

Dr Kevin Herbert, Dr Lauren Herlitz, Professor Steve Morris, Dr Claire Powell, Dr Jenny Woodman


Early interventions for children across the life course and their families

What we hope to find out

We aim to understand the characteristics associated with unmet need in primary care use among children and young people, and why this unmet need occurs. We hope to find out which groups experience difficulties in accessing primary care, and how primary care services could better address these difficulties.

Why are we doing this study

At the moment we have a general picture of unmet needs in primary health care, but we do not understand the specific issues for children and young people. If children and young people are unable to access primary health care services when they need them, this can have long term negative impacts on their health.

Why this is important

Primary health care services can be the first (and sometimes the only) point of contact for children and young people. Identifying which young people are not having their needs met, and gathering the views of families and professionals on current barriers to access, and what might facilitate better access, will help us to make recommendations for improvements in the provision of primary health care services for children and young people. We hope this will both improve outcomes for children and young people and reduce the inequalities in their access to services.

What we will do

Using longitudinal medical records from the Clinical Practie Research Datalink (CPRD) and household surveys, we will investigate primary care utilisation, defined and quantified in terms of contacts with different aspects of primary care health services. We will use regression analysis to understand the role of individual key socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic indicators) on the use of primary health care services by children and young people, controlling for health measures such as chronic and long-term health conditions and health risk factors, and other indicators of primary health care need.

We will interview young people and their parents to understand why it can be difficult to access primary care services and how access can be improved. We will try and speak to young people in different areas across the UK so we can understand any differences due to geography.To understand the professionals’ perspectives, we will carry out a qualitative survey for relevant health care practitioners, such as nurses, health visitors, pharmacists and GPs. Carrying out a survey means we should be able to reach practitioners from all around the country.

We will bring together the findings from the statistical analyses and the qualitative studies to build a detailed picture of which young people find it hard to access primary health care services and what changes could be made.