More than one in five clinical commissioning groups are planning to “introduce” competition for out-of-hours primary care in the next year, an exclusive HSJ survey reveals.

The third quarterly HSJ CCG Barometer, sponsored by GatenbySanderson, asked CCG leaders if they planned to introduce competition in any areas in the next year and to name the four services most likely to be put out to tender.

Twenty-two per cent identified out-of-hours care.

The finding comes as health secretary Jeremy Hunt indicates he wants to return to a policy of GP practices having a more direct role in providing out of hours care. He is expected to call for the change in a speech on Thursday.

The survey suggests a large number of the 211 CCGs created by the government’s NHS reforms are – in contrast – planning to open the service to competition.

Out of hours primary care has generally provided by a chosen local, regional or national independent provider in each area. The quality of the services has been under question in recent years.

In the HSJ/GatenbySanderson survey, out-of-hours primary care was the fifth most chosen target for competition following musculoskeletal services (34 per cent), other community services (31 per cent), community diagnostics (26 per cent) and “care for several long term conditions” (24 per cent).

It is the first of the quarterly surveys carried out since CCGs took on their full powers as part of the Health Act commissioning reorganisation.

Ninety-four CCG leaders from 86 different CCGs, 41 per cent of the total 211, answered the survey during April and May. Ninety per cent were chairs or accountable officers and the other 10 per cent were other governing body members.