Background: Reports of higher quality care by higher-volume secondary care providers have fuelled a shift of services from smaller provider units to larger hospitals and units. In the United Kingdom, most patients are managed in primary care. Hence if larger practices provide better quality of care; this would have important implications for the future organization of primary care services. We examined the association between quality of primary care for cardiovascular disease achieved by general practices in England and Scotland by general practice caseload, practice size and area based deprivation measures, using data from the New General Practitioner (GP) Contract.
Methods: We analyzed data from 8,970 general practices with a total registered population of 55,522,778 patients in England and Scotland. We measured practice performance against 26 cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease, left ventricular disease, and stroke) Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) indicators for patients on cardiovascular disease registers and linked this with data on practice characteristics and census data.
Results: Despite wide variations in practice list sizes and deprivation, the prevalence of was remarkably consistent, (coronary heart disease, left ventricular dysfunction, hypertension and cerebrovascular disease was 3.7%; 0.45%; 11.4% and 1.5% respectively). Achievement in quality of care for cardiovascular disease, as measured by QOF, was consistently high regardless of caseload or size with a few notable exceptions: practices with larger list sizes, higher cardiovascular disease caseloads and those in affluent areas had higher achievement of indicators requiring referral for further investigation. For example, small practices achieved lower scores 71.4% than large practices 88.6% (P < 0.0001) for referral for exercise testing and specialist assessment of patients with newly diagnosed angina.
Conclusion: The volume-outcome relationship found in hospital settings is not seen between practices in the UK in management of cardiovascular disorders in primary care. Further work is warranted to explain apparently poorer quality achievement in some aspects of cardiovascular management relating to initial diagnosis and management among practices in deprived areas, smaller practices and those with a smaller caseload.