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“Politicians must reconsider commercially tendering GP OOH contracts,” says BMA

1 May 2015

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Commercial providers of out of hours GP care in England are associated with poorer experience of care compared with NHS or not for profit providers, finds a study in The BMJ this week.

A team led by Professor John Campbell at the University of Exeter Medical School, analysed data from more than 900,000 patients who completed the General Practice Patient Survey 2012-13, to investigate patients’ experiences of using out of hours services (OOH) across England. 

Campbell said: “There were variations and examples of good practice among all providers, but the overall trend is that patients report less positive experiences with commercial providers, and we now need to understand why that is the case.”

Responding today, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee deputy chair, said: “There is evidence of a division in quality between OOH services that are developed from GP-led co-ops and those run by the private sector.”

The BMJstudy is in line with the results of the recent BMA survey The future of general practice that found only 5% of GPs felt that contracts run by commercial providers were value for money and just 8% believed they delivered good quality care.

“Those OOH services with roots in the NHS often retain their connection with local GPs who continue to work evenings and weekends, providing a strong line of continuity and connection with patients. (They) often have a greater say in how services are delivered which takes into account the needs of the local community. This positive environment does not always exist in contracts delivered by the commercial sector.

“As polling day draws closer, we need politicians to stop playing games with the NHS with gimmicky announcements and instead focus on the real issues like those in OOH care, which are having a daily impact on patients,” he said.