New Health Program Leads to Questions in the UK

Program calls for each primary care trust to seek a general practitioner-led health center
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new British program to improve patient choices and competition in the health care marketplace may lead to excess capacity in some areas and instability in others, according to a commentary published online March 31 in BMJ.

Jo Ellins, and colleagues at the Health Services Management Centre in Birmingham, U.K., examined the effects of a program that calls for every primary care trust in England to contract for a new health center led by a general practitioner. Some evidence has shown that new providers have delivered benefits such as longer hours, and services such as management of chronic conditions.

However, a drawback is that primary care trusts have had to develop new health centers regardless of whether the need existed. The money allocated for these centers might have been better spent on new services to satisfy local needs. In addition, patients may be reluctant to leave their familiar physicians to use the new services, or they may be unaware of them, the authors write.

"The national program to procure additional primary medical care services may result in underused capacity in some areas and difficulties in attracting new providers into other areas. There is also a risk that new providers may unintentionally destabilize existing practices delivering a high standard of care to patients if they are offered guaranteed funding for the provision of services. These seemingly contradictory outcomes may occur simultaneously," Ellins and colleagues conclude.

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