Competition in primary care 'may not benefit patients'

Opening up the primary care market may not deliver any benefit for patients, health policy experts warn in this week's BMJ.

DoH advisor Professor Chris Ham and colleagues from the University of Birmingham express doubts about bringing in alternative providers in the current economic climate.

Patient choice is still insufficiently developed to bring any benefits from having competition between providers, they argue. 

The researchers interviewed staff from Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs), Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), and provider organisations that have put in bids to run practices. 

The new generation of provider has blurred the boundary between NHS and corporate providers and the new providers have faced a mixed local reaction, the article says.

There is also a risk that new providers may unintentionally destabilise existing practices delivering a high standard of care to patients if they are offered guaranteed funding for the provision of services, they add.

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