Primary care is the care provided by people you normally see when you first have a health problem. It might be a visit to a doctor or a dentist, an optician for an eye test or a trip to a pharmacist to buy cough mixture. NHS walk-in centres and the NHS Direct telephone service are also part of primary care. All of these services are managed for you by your local primary care trust (PCT). There are currently 151 primary care trusts in England, six of which are care trusts.

Your PCT will work with local authorities and other agencies that provide health and social care locally to make sure that your local community’s needs are being met.

PCTs are now at the centre of the NHS and control 80% of the NHS budget. As they are local organisations, they understand what their community needs, so they can make sure that the organisations providing health and social care services are working effectively.

For example, your PCT must make sure there are enough services for people within their area and that these services are accessible. It must also make sure that all other health services are provided, including hospitals, dentists, opticians, mental health services, NHS walk-in centres, NHS Direct, patient transport (including accident and emergency), screening and pharmacies. They are also responsible for getting health and social care systems working together for the benefit of patients.

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.