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Provider diversity in the NHS: impact on quality and innovation
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Lead: Will Bartlett
University of Bristol



The overall aim of the research is to assess the impact of new types of provider organisation on quality and innovation in service delivery in the English NHS. The specific research objectives are:

  • to identify differences in performance between non-profit third sector organisations, for-profit private enterprises and public sector institutions as providers of health and social care services, and the factors that determine or hinder their entry and growth.
  • to investigate the conditions under which new and diverse types of provider organisations may contribute to improved health outcomes and through which their contribution to health system objectives can be developed.

  • to examine the extent to which independent provider organisations from both the private and voluntary sectors, including social enterprises, which serve the needs of minority and disadvantaged groups with little voice in the policy process, can contribute to improved quality of services and foster innovation in the public sector.
The research will be carried out in four local areas each served by a single Primary Care Trust (the organisation which purchases services from the provider organisations on behalf of local GP commissioners and their patients). Each local area will be considered as a case study in its own right, each differing in specific ways. Special attention will be given to the impact of provider diversity on health outcomes and to the increasing importance of independent sector organisations, both for- and non-profit, as service providers to the NHS.

The research will have particular policy relevance in assisting the design of appropriate mechanisms to support the entry of independent sector providers, distinguishing those that are the most likely to contribute effectively to health system objectives. It will identify the factors that determine the entry and growth of both social enterprises and private enterprises and make policy recommendations on the removal of entry barriers and the development of services from diverse providers. It will provide information on ways to encourage the quality of services and stimulate innovation within a context of diverse provision.

Last updated: 13 August 2013
Design: C Rivett-Carnac
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