Commercial providers of GP out-of-hours (OOH) care provide a “poorer” experience in England, compared with NHS or not-for-profit providers, suggests UK research.
OOH care – between 6.30pm and 8am on weekdays, and at weekends – is currently delivered by a combination of NHS, not for profit, and commercial providers.
The Care Quality Commission has regulated the quality and safety of OOH GP services since 2012, after concerns were raised in the media over several years.
A team led by Professor John Campbell, from the University of Exeter Medical School, investigated patient experience of using OOH services across England.
“Patients report less positive experiences with commercial providers, and we now need to understand why that is the case”
The team analysed survey data from 80,000 patients who had had contact with OOH services in the preceding six months.
This included individual characteristics and their experience of care – timeliness, confidence and trust in the OOH doctor or nurse, and overall experience of care.
Commercial providers were associated with poorer reports of patient experience across all three outcome measures, compared with not-for-profit providers, said the study authors. Overall, NHS providers scored slightly higher than not-for-profit providers.
The reasons why commercial providers were associated with poorer experience of OOH GP care warrant further exploration, said the authors in the British Medical Journal.
Professor Campbell noted that, although commercial providers scored lower overall, the best commercial providers scored higher than many of the NHS and not-for-profit providers.
“There are 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,” he added.