Ensuring the continuation of routine primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic: a review of the international literature

Sethunya Matenge, Elizabeth Sturgiss, Jane Desborough, Sally Hall Dykgraaf, Garang Dut, Michael Kidd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the diversion of health resources away from routine primary care delivery. This disruption of health services has necessitated new approaches to providing care to ensure continuity. OBJECTIVES: To summarize changes to the provision of routine primary care services during the pandemic. METHODS: Rapid literature review using PubMed/MEDLINE, SCOPUS, and Cochrane. Eligible studies were based in primary care and described practice-level changes in the provision of routine care in response to COVID-19. Relevant data addressing changes to routine primary care delivery, impact on primary care functions and challenges experienced in adjusting to new approaches to providing care, were obtained from included studies. A narrative summary was guided by Burns et al.'s framework for primary care provision in disasters. RESULTS: Seventeen of 1,699 identified papers were included. Studies reported on telehealth use and public health measures to maintain safe access to routine primary care, including providing COVID-19 screening, and establishing dedicated care pathways for non-COVID and COVID-related issues. Acute and urgent care were prioritized, causing disruptions to chronic disease management and preventive care. Challenges included telehealth use including disparities in access and practical difficulties in assessing patients, personal protective equipment shortages, and financial solvency of medical practices. CONCLUSIONS: Substantial disruptions to routine primary care occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Primary care practices' rapid adaptation, often with limited resources and support, demonstrates agility and innovative capacity. Findings underscore the need for timely guidance and support from authorities to optimize the provision of comprehensive routine care during pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-761
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • COVID-19
  • general practice
  • models of care
  • pandemic
  • primary care
  • routine


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