Private healthcare group UnitedHealth UK is stepping out of the primary care arena, transferring all related businesses, including its six GP practices, to The Practice with immediate effect. 

The move to ditch its primary care business comes with a shift in strategy to place a greater focus on the provision of commissioning support, and thereby secure its position as the government embarks on its radical programme of NHS reform.

According to chief executive Karen Ward, UnitedHealth UK intends to remain a long term partner for the NHS. 

But "we've taken the decision to focus our efforts on providing commissioning support services that can help the NHS meet the £20bn QIPP challenge and drive improvements in care through effective commissioning, [which] means that we won't be competing to provide primary care services," she explained.

Despite initial opposition to its takeover of GP practices, including three in London, UnitedHealth UK insists that improvements have been made during its rule. 

Improvements made

An extra 1,500 patients have chosen to register "in recognition of the excellent care that we've provided", while quality performance has improved and every single practice has opened in either the evenings or weekends to increase access to services, Ward said.

And The Practice is confident that it can continue where its predecessor left off. A private healthcare provider that already manages 50 primary care practices, the firm provides care to more than 150,000 NHS patients, which it claims puts it in good stead to "build on the current success and offer a wider range of options to patients", noted chief executive Peter Watts.