Background Integrated health services with an emphasis on primary care are needed for effective primary health care and achievement of universal health coverage. The key elements of high quality primary care are first-contact access, continuity, comprehensiveness, coordination, and person-centredness. In Kenya, there is little information on these key elements and such information is needed to improve service delivery. This study aimed to evaluate the quality of primary care performance in a group of private sector clinics in Nairobi, Kenya.

Methods A cross-sectional descriptive study adapted the Primary Care Assessment Tool for the Kenyan context and surveyed 412 systematically sampled primary care users, from 13 PC clinics. Data was analysed to measure 11 domains of primary care performance and two aggregated primary care scores using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences.

Results Mean primary care score was 2.64 (SD=0.23) and the mean expanded primary care score was 2.68 (SD=0.19), implying poor overall performance. The domains of first contact-utilisation, coordination (information system), family-centredness and cultural competence had mean scores of >3.0 (acceptable to good performance). The domains of first contact (access), coordination, comprehensiveness (provided and available), ongoing care and communityorientation had mean scores of < 3.0 (poor performance). Older respondents (p=0.05) and those with higher affiliation to the clinics (p=0.01) were more likely to rate primary care as acceptable to good.

Conclusion These primary care clinics in Nairobi had a poor overall performance. There was a report of acceptable-to-good performance in first-contact utilisation, the information systems, family centredness and cultural competence. However, patients rated first-contact access, ongoing care, coordination of care, comprehensiveness of services, community orientation and availability of a complete primary health care team, as poor. Performance could be improved by deploying family physicians, increasing the scope of practice to become more comprehensive, improving access after-hours and marketing the use of the clinics to the practice population….more