Exclusive: Private firms score less on quality points

More than half of practices run by private companies score below the England average in the quality framework, according to a GP survey.

Of the 30 practices run by private providers during 2006/7, 16 were below the England average score of 954 points.

Across all practices run by private providers during 2006/7 the average score was 922, 3 per cent below the England average.

Last month GP reported that PCT-run practices averaged 810. Among the practices were some with particularly low scores, including the Chilvers McCrea-run Brighton Homeless Healthcare Centre with a score of 752 and Intra Health’s Chiltern Hills Medical Practice, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on 800.

Other poor performers included Concordia’s Parkside and Melbourne Grove medical practices, both in Southwark, south-east London and on 803 and 828 respectively.

With the exception of one practice, the Chilvers McCrea-run St Lukes Medical Centre in Canning Town, east London, all 16 were also below the average scores for practices in their PCT areas.

Chilvers McCrea chairman Dr Rory McCrea said that a key reason why so many privately run practices under perform in the quality framework ‘is because often they are practices that no-one wanted to run in the first place and had a range of problems that needed fixing’.

The firm makes up the bulk of the list of the practices run privately during 2006/7 with 22, half of which achieved below average quality framework scores during that period.

‘In some of our practices there have been historical problems with IT infrastructure and with HR. Some have been sorted quicker than others,’ he said, adding that he expects better scores from a number of his firm’s practices with below average scores in 2007/8.

Concordia Health, which is run by joint architects of the 2004 GMS contract Drs Simon Fradd and John Chisholm, took over the Parkside and Melbourne Park practices in July 2006.

Dr Fradd said: ‘We had a lot of catching up to do. Basics were not in place, such as no flu vaccines had been ordered.’

He denied that employing salaried GPs acts as a quality framework disincentive, an argument used to explain low scores in PCT-run practices.

‘To be honest, you don’t need GPs for the quality framework. It is not a GP function, most of it is administrative and nursing.’

Among the better performers were Care UK’s Broad Street practice in Dagenham, Essex, with a score of 974. Also Intra Health’s three other practices all had scores above the England average.

A spokesperson for Intra Health added that the Chiltern Hills practice is expected to achieve a quality framework score of 950 by the end of the current financial year.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Many of these practices come from a low base to start with, so it is not a surprise that so many have low quality scores but what I would want to see is an improvement over time.’

GPletters@haymarket.com

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