Steve Hugh Award
Exclusive: Private out-of-hours services are more expensive and rated worse by patients than those delivered by not-for-profit alternatives such as GP co-operatives, a major Pulse analysis reveals.
Companies often matched the performance of not-for-profit and NHS providers on the National Quality Requirements under which contracts are monitored, but lagged significantly behind on separate patient satisfaction scores.
Harmoni, the country's largest out-of-hours provider, performed significantly below average not only on patient satisfaction but on key requirements to assess urgent cases within 20 minutes and see them face to face within two hours.
Our findings come from a detailed breakdown of the first ever Primary Care Foundation benchmarking exercise to name individual providers, and will seriously challenge the growing dominance of private firms in the out-of-hours market.
The analysis looked at five indicators across 81 out-of-hours services, 32 provided by not-for-profit organisations, 27 in house by the NHS and 22 by private firms – 12 by Harmoni.
Patients' different views of services were only partly reflected in performance on
key National Quality Requirements. Private providers saw 91.2% of urgent cases within two hours – with Harmoni scoring just 81.4% – compared with 95.3% for not-for-profit and 91.6% for NHS trusts.
The Primary Care Foundation said there was too much focus on fulfilling National Quality Requirements, and urged commissioners to also consider patient satisfaction, audits of clinicians and integration of services.