Researchers from Imperial College London have released a report saying alternative providers of primary care in the NHS do not perform as well as traditional GP practices.
Alternative providers include private sector companies, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.
These providers performed worse than traditional GP practices on 15 out of 17 indicators after adjusting for the characteristics of the practices and the populations they serve.
These include patient satisfaction, diabetes control, and keeping patients out of hospital.
Companies such as Virgin Healthcare and Care UK have been found to perform worse than typical surgeries.
The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that 4.1% of general practices in England are run by under ‘alternative provider medical service’ (APMS) contracts.
They typically serve more deprived, younger and more diverse populations than average GP practices.
The study looked at a range of performance indicators from the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the national GP Patient Survey.
Dr Christopher Millett, from the School of Public Health at Imperial said:
This study provides data to inform the debate about the growing role of the private sector in the NHS. New providers were allowed into the primary care market to stimulate competition, but our findings suggest that the introduction has not led to improvements in quality and may have resulted in worse care.
The future of the NHS is one of the linchpins of this year’s election.
Labour promises to end the ‘market experimentation’ of the NHS.
The Conservatives blame Labour for the rise in private sector health care in the first place.
So these findings may have an impact on how we seek health advice in the future.
Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:
The study also demonstrates that instead of encouraging more private sector involvement in the provision of GP services, what we need, and what our patients need, is significantly more investment for existing general practice services and thousands more GPs.