This site is intended for health professionals only

Practices run by private companies deliver worse care, study says

by Léa Legraien
3 November 2017

Share this article

GP practices owned by limited companies deliver worse patient care than other practices, a study has revealed.

The data, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, showed patients registered with practices holding Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) contracts had an overall experience of 3.04 point lower than those with general contracts.

The biggest difference reported was 12.78 points, in terms of patients’ satisfaction on consultations with their preferred GP.

Researchers analysed the answers of more than 900,000 patients across 8,005 practices between 2013 and 2014 in England.

They used a scale from 0 to 100, based on the results of five measures, including the ability to get a convenient appointment, the GP’s communication skills, the ease of contacting the practice, the overall experience and the frequency at which to consult a preferred GP.

Quite uncommon

With only 1.3% of practices operated by limited companies, private ownership remains quite uncommon across the country.

Overall, nearly 65% of all practices have General Medical Services (GMS) contracts, while 32% hold Personal Medical Services (PMS) contracts.

The researchers warned that patients’ experience might be affected by the way they perceive the organisation providing care, ‘in addition to the service itself’, and if they are ‘aware of the ownership of their general practice, which may be atypical’.

They said: ‘Although our results suggest that limited companies provide worse patient experiences on average, some practices owned by these companies provide a good experience; others provide the opposite.

Good care overall

The latest GP patient survey conducted by NHS England and Ipsos MORI, a market research organisation, revealed that around 85% of patients rated their overall experience of their practice as good.  

If practices have to deliver a high-quality experience to their patients, it is also down to health organisations to make sure they do so.

‘It is the responsibility of commissioners, regulators, clinicians and owners to guarantee that individual practices meet expected standards while ensuring that care quality is not systematically associated with the ownership,’ said the researchers.