Health system reforms in England are opening broad areas of clinical practice to new providers of care. As part of these reforms, new entrants--including private companies--have been allowed into the primary care market under 'alternative provider of medical services' contracting mechanisms since 2004. The characteristics and performance of general practices working under new alternative provider contracts are not well described. We sought to compare the quality of care provided by new entrant providers to that provided by the traditional model of general practice.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Seventeen established quality indicators--covering clinical effectiveness, efficiency, access and patient experience.
In total, 4.1% (347 of 8300) of general practices in England were run by alternative contract providers. These practices tended to be smaller, and serve younger, more diverse and more deprived populations than traditional providers. Practices run by alternative providers performed worse than traditional providers on 15 of 17 indicators after adjusting for practice and population characteristics (p < 0.01 for all). Switching to a new alternative provider contract did not result in improved performance.