Private GP out-of-hours care 'worse'

Doctor writing script Image copyright Science Photo Library

GP out-of-hours services provided by commercial companies perform slightly worse than NHS or not-for-profit equivalents, an analysis indicates.

These services cover weekends and from 18:30 to 08:00 on weekdays.

The research, by Exeter Medical School, used data from the official GP patient survey in England to score the three types of providers out of 100.

On speed, confidence and overall experience, scores from patients seen by commercial providers were lower.

The score out of 100 for overall experience was:

  • 73 for the NHS
  • 72 for not-for profit
  • 69 for the commercial sector

Similar results had been found for the other two measures, the study in the British Medical Journal said.

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Media captionProf John Campbell: "Whether there is profit to be made without compromising patient care is something politicians have to address"

Prof John Campbell, who led the research, which involved more than 80,000 patients, said the results were "statistically significant".

"The overall trend is that patients report less positive experiences with commercial, and we now need to understand why," he said.

But he said the research did show that the very best individual scores by providers were seen in the commercial sector.

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