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What is a General Practitioner?

by Yuyu. Published on .

Today, we're shining the spotlight on a crucial yet often overlooked player in the healthcare system: the General Practitioner (GP).

You might have heard of them called family physicians or primary care physicians, but no matter the name, their role is essential. They're the first point of contact in the healthcare system, guiding us toward better health, whether it's for a routine check-up, managing chronic illnesses, or giving us much-needed advice to keep our health on track.

So, what exactly is a General Practitioner?

Let's explore together the roles, responsibilities, and the incredible impact these healthcare heroes have on our lives.

General Practitioner

What Is a General Practitioner?

In the simplest terms, a general practitioner (or GP for short) is a doctor who treats chronic and acute illnesses and provides preventive care and health education to a broad range of patients.

They are the "Jack-of-all-trades" within the medical profession, equipped with a vast depth and breadth of knowledge that allows them to diagnose and treat a multitude of health conditions.

Think of them as the "go-to" doctor for patients of all ages, a unique aspect of their role that distinguishes them from other specialists.

In Singapore, there are 23 polyclinics and about 1,800 GP clinics as of now.

In Singapore, primary care is provided through an island-wide network of outpatient polyclinics and clinics run by private general practitioners (GPs).

What Services Does a General Practitioner Provide?

General Practitioners deliver an array of essential medical services that cater to both immediate needs and long-term health management for you and your family.

Their comprehensive care makes them an invaluable part of the healthcare system, ensuring individuals and families receive care tailored to their specific health journey.

What do these services include?

Acute and Chronic Care

GPs provide immediate attention to common medical issues such as infections, the flu, or injuries. They also play a pivotal role in managing chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, focusing on long-term treatment and monitoring to improve quality of life.

Preventive Medicine

Preventive healthcare is a cornerstone of the services offered by GPs. This includes administering vaccinations such as regular flu vaccination, conducting regular health screenings, and providing lifestyle and dietary advice to prevent diseases before they occur.

Health Screenings

Regular health screenings are essential for early detection of diseases, which significantly increases the chances of successful treatment. GPs conduct these screenings, including blood pressure tests, cholesterol level checks, and cancer screenings, tailored to individual health needs and risk factors.

GP checking child

Children’s Health

From newborn care to adolescent health issues, GPs are equipped to deal with a wide range of pediatric concerns. They offer immunizations, developmental assessments, and guidance on nutrition and general care for children and young adults.

Travel Medicine

For those planning to travel, GPs provide essential services such as travel vaccinations, health advice tailored to specific destinations, and prophylactic treatments to prevent travel-related illnesses.

Men's Health

Addressing men's health concerns, GPs provide screenings and treatments related to prostate health, sexual health, cardiovascular health, and lifestyle-related issues, creating a comprehensive approach to men's wellness.

Women’s Health

GPs offer comprehensive women's health services, focusing on issues such as reproductive health, family planning, pregnancy care, and menopause management. They provide a supportive environment to address concerns and promote overall wellness.

Specialist Care Referral

General practitioners could refer you to specialist outpatient clinics (SOC) and/or hospitals as part of your care if it's required. They would discuss with you prior to making any referral for specialist care.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like for a General Practitioner?

Each day for a GP is diverse — offering an array of simple to complex cases, keeping them on their toes.

Here's what a day can look like:

Most commonly, GPs hold appointments to assess patient symptoms and health concerns, directing them to specialists when necessary.

Additionally, their daily routine may involve providing vaccinations, conducting health checks for babies, managing chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma, carrying out minor surgery, or advising on lifestyle and diet choices that could impact health.

Emergencies could also pop up within their workday, in which case they'll need to spring into action to provide immediate care or suitable referral.

Plus, some general practitioners provide home medical services where they make house visits for patients who can't make it to the clinic.

What Is the Difference between Going to GPs and Polyclinics?

You will receive the same level of care regardless of whether you choose to see a doctor at a GP clinic or Polyclinic as there are standard care protocols to guide doctors in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and lipid disorders. The protocols will also cover health screenings, medications, lifestyle adjustments, and referrals to specialists and acute care when necessary.

Are There Fees Differences between Being a Polyclinic or a Gp?

Fees and subsidies for common chronic medications at polyclinics and GP clinics will be similar under Healthier SG, but there may be some differences in consultation fees because GPs set their own prices privately and because of how government subsidies are given in the two settings.

From February 2024, all CHAS/MG/PG cardholders enrolled with a Healthier SG GP can opt for the new Healthier SG Chronic Tier to receive selected chronic medications under the Healthier SG Medication List at prices comparable to the polyclinic. Patients can enjoy subsidy rates of up to 87.5% for these medications. The list of medications can be found at here.

Patients will also enjoy additional subsidies on their consultation fees at GP clinics, subject to annual and per-visit dollar limits. Patients need not pay consultation fees in situations where the subsidy limits are higher than the consultation charges. For instance, a CHAS Green patient with one chronic condition has a per-visit limit of $28. If the GP charges $25 for the consultation, a full subsidy of $25 will be provided. If the GP charges $35 for the consultation, a subsidy of $28 is provided and the patient will pay the remaining $7. On the other hand, there is no overall annual dollar limit at polyclinics but patients would need to make some small payment for every consultation visit which is already subsidised.

If you are not a CHAS/MG/PG cardholder, the prevailing GP clinic rates apply. Click here to find out more about Community Health Assit Scheme (CHAS).

You are advised to check the medication and consultation fees at your clinic.


Our health journey is a long and winding road, and having a general practitioner (GP) by our side is invaluable. GPs are more than just doctors; they're our partners in health, providing comprehensive care that spans from preventive measures to managing chronic conditions, and everything in between.

In the spirit of staying healthy and proactive about our well-being, let's make regular visits to our GP a priority. These check-ups are crucial not just for addressing immediate health concerns but also for maintaining our overall health in the long run. By visiting our GP regularly, we're taking a significant step towards a healthier, more vibrant life.

Don't wait for health issues to become serious. Act now, and make your GP visit a part of your health routine. Your future self will thank you!

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