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At the heart of general practice since 1960

March of the private sector

Pulse examines the threats and opportunities arising from private provision of primary care.

Pulse examines the threats and opportunities arising from private provision of primary care.

It's little less than a revolution in primary care.

Private firms are bidding to run GP surgeries, open state-of-the-art polyclinics and walk-in centres, and even commission NHS services. Spending on private provision in primary care is set to triple, or even quadruple, over the next year. But what do GPs think about it?

Our survey suggests few are enthusiastic, with only 18% saying they support the Government's plans, while 57% do not believe private provision is capable of improving care.

But suspicion does not necessarily translate as opposition – and as ever, GPs are set to take a pragmatic approach. As many as a third would be prepared to work directly for a private company. And the offers are coming – 25% of GPs have already been approached.

GPs, it seems, are resigned to huge changes to the NHS – 71% believe major retailers will be running practices within five years.

Indeed, it is not clear whether doctors expect the NHS to exist at all in the medium-term future.

Only 16% of more than 500 GPs we surveyed said they expected ‘the NHS as we know it' to be around in 10 years. Just 32% thought the NHS of the future, whatever it looks like, would be free at the point of use.

On this page we present a picture, using the latest statistics, of the current state of play in the march of the private sector.

Our special report will then go on to examine the evidence for the benefits of private provision, ask experts how to play the private sector game and cast our eye to the future – and abroad – to ask what the NHS may eventually look like.

How the private sector is playing an increasing role in primary care

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