They concluded that, although contracts had begun to be awarded to private firms, no ‘revolution’ had yet taken place.
Last year Chris Town, chairman of government White Paper advisory group the Working in Partnership Programme, forecast up to 30 per cent of practices in England could be run by private providers by 2010 (GP, 18 August).
A team from the King’s Fund sent Freedom of Information requests about APMS contracts in October 2006 to all of England’s 153 PCTs.
They asked whether PCTs had put any primary care services out to tender since April 2004, when APMS was introduced, and whether an APMS contract had been awarded.
Of the 122 PCTs that replied, 69 had invited tenders and 34 APMS contracts had been awarded by 28 PCTs.
Entrepreneurial GPs were awarded 24 of the 34 contracts, with nine going to non-NHS firms and one to an NHS trust.
Researcher Dr Nicola Walsh, an independent consultant and visiting fellow at the King’s Fund, said: ‘Whether or not entrepreneurial GPs will continue to be awarded the bulk of APMS contracts I feel will depend on how local GPs design, deliver and market their services in future and also whether or not PCTs strengthen or change their commissioning function.’
Researchers found PCTs had tendered to commission services in under-doctored areas, to meet population needs and to commission specific services. Filling jobs in under-served areas was the reason behind 16 contracts.
‘The volume of alternative types of provider in primary care remains small and the use of APMS limited,’ says the report.