Going private: clinicians' experience of working in UK independent sector treatment centres

Health Policy. 2012 Feb;104(2):172-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2011.07.006. Epub 2011 Aug 10.


Objectives: With increased possibility that public healthcare services in the UK will be outsourced to the private sector, this study investigates how clinicians working in Independent Sector Treatment Centres perceive the differences between public and private sectors.

Methods: Qualitative interviews with 35 clinicians recruited from two ISTCs. All participants were transferred to the independent sector from the public National Health Service. Interview data were analysed to identify shared experience about the variable organisation and delivery of services.

Results: Clinicians perceived differences between public and independent sectors in the areas of 'environment and facilities', 'management', 'work organisation and care delivery', and 'patient experience'. The independent sector was described as offering a positive alternative to public services in regard to service environment and patient experience, but there were concerns about management priorities and the reconfiguration of work.

Conclusions: Clinicians' experience of moving between sectors reveals mixed experiences. Although some improvements might legitimise the growing role of the independent sector, there remain doubts about the commercialisation of services, the motives of managers and the impact of clinical roles and capabilities. With policies looking to expand the mixed economy of public healthcare services, the study suggests clinicians will not automatically embrace a move between sectors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Humans
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Private Sector* / organization & administration
  • Private Sector* / standards
  • Public Sector / organization & administration
  • Public Sector / standards
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Quality of Health Care / standards
  • United Kingdom