Quality and safety in the independent healthcare sector 2023


Independent providers are a core element of the UK health system, providing services to NHS and privately funded patients across primary, community, diagnostic and secondary sectors. This report reflects IHPN’s membership and therefore does not include mental health provision. 

This report is the first time that we have brought together so much quality-related information together across the full range of independent providers. In so doing, our aim, on behalf of our members, is to provide a narrative that draws on qualitative data about the sector and provides a vehicle for our members to drive further improvement. 

We have provided comparative information about NHS providers where sufficient information is available, but we have done this cautiously, aware that there are differences between sectors, geographies and individual circumstances that affect performance. The rationale for these comparisons is to provide context within which independent provision takes place. 

Due to the different regulatory approaches across the four nations and the inherent complexity of the sector and available data, this report focuses on England and specifically draws on data published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as it covers the largest number of providers. A summary of the regulators view in the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can be found in the Appendix. 

Overall, the sector provides a high quality of care: 

  • 94% of healthcare locations run by IHPN members have an overall rating of good or outstanding from the CQC1
  • 85% of independent providers rated for diagnostic imaging services are good or outstanding. 
  • 92% of independent community healthcare providers are rated good or outstanding. 
  • 94% of independent doctors rated by the CQC are good or outstanding. 
  • Over 330 Freedom to Speak Up Guardians at independent providers – an increase of over 70% since the beginning of 2022. 

However, as the report highlights, there is always more to do, particularly around contributions to national audits, the development of primary care benchmarking and use of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. 

This report is the next step in our collective safety conversation and we will build on this over time, working together with IHPN members and the wider healthcare system.  

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