Alternate providers of healthcare do not perform as well as traditional primary care services such as general practices a study by Imperial College has found.
The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, compared normal general practices and those run by alternate providers on 17 different indicators of quality, such as how easy it is for patients to get appointments, how well blood pressure is managed, and how efficiently practices are run. The study found that general practices run by NHS providers were superior in 15 of the 17 quality indicators.
Dr Christopher Millett, the lead author of the study, said: 'New providers were allowed into the primary care market to stimulate competition, but our findings suggest that their introduction has not led to improvements in quality and may have resulted in worse care.'
The study identified several areas where treatment in practices run by alternate providers was substantially worse that in NHS practices. These include diabetes control, admission rates to hospital as a result of complications to long-term conditions, and overall patient satisfaction.
Dr Millett added: 'The lesson is that increasing diversity does not necessarily lead to better quality. Regulators should ensure that new providers of NHS services are performing to adequate standards and at least as well as traditional providers.'
The study notes that alternate providers such as private healthcare companies and voluntary organisations run 347 practices in England, 4.1% of all general practices. It also notes that these practices tend to serve more diverse and deprived communities that most NHS general practice providers.