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Skill mix development in general practice: a mixed method study of practice nurses and general practitioners

Jabareen, Hussein Mohammad (2009) Skill mix development in general practice: a mixed method study of practice nurses and general practitioners. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

General practice has undergone considerable change in the last two decades. New roles for nurses working in general practice have extended to include tasks that were previously delivered by general practitioners, in particular chronic disease management, and the development of new, advanced roles such as independent nurse prescribing. There have been few research studies investigating the impact of these changes, especially after the introduction of the new General Medical Services contract in April 2004. The overall aim of the work presented in this thesis was to examine the emerging roles of practice nurses, the forces influencing that development, and the effects of these changes on doctor-nurse skill mix in general practice within NHS Scotland. The work employed a mixed methods approach, with three inter-linked studies. The first study was a quantitative, desk-based analysis of workload and clinical activities of doctors and nurses working in 37 practices across Scotland for the year 2002. The second study was a postal questionnaire to all practice nurses working within NHS Greater Glasgow (n=329), conducted in autumn 2005 and achieving a 61% response rate. The third study was a qualitative study, consisting of eighteen interviews with a doctor and nurse inform each of nine general practices. The interviews were conducted between January and July 2006 and practices were selected according to the number of partners and the deprivation status of the practice population. Analysis of workload data showed that practice nurses and general practitioners dealt with 27.5% and 72.5% of total face-to-face encounters, respectively. Many of the encounters with nurses involved chronic disease management, with 20% of such encounters appearing similar in content to the work of GPs. The postal survey found that one third of practice nurses were aged over 50, and will be approaching retirement within 10 years. The majority worked in small teams of nurses, although 31% worked alone. This may have contributed to the finding that 52% (n=103) reported feeling isolated in their workplace. Many had attended CPD training on chronic conditions, but identified minor illness treatment as an area for future training. The qualitative study showed that the Quality and Outcomes Framework of the 2004 contract had been a key driver of changes in general practice service delivery. This has led to an increasing shift in routine care from doctors to nurses. As new roles for practice nurses have evolved, GPs have been able to focus on treating complex morbidities that need medical diagnosis and intervention. The incentivised targets of the new contract have made chronic disease management a predominant activity for practice nurses, with treatment room and non-incentivised activities featuring less and increasingly being provided by new, lower grade nurses or nurse replacements such as Health Care Support Workers (HCSW). There was no consensus between interview participants in terms of the most appropriate use of doctor-nurse skill mix in general practice. Nor did they agree on the merit of advanced roles for practice nurses. However, respondents did emphasise that nurses who wanted to have an independent/advanced role in the practice would need to combine three competencies (independent nurse prescribing, triaging, and minor illness treatment). Most practice nurses interviewed were concerned with obtaining a fair financial return to match their increasing responsibilities, especially after the introduction of the nGMS contract. GPs, however, tended to believe that nurses were appropriately remunerated for the level of responsibility they had within the practice. The continuing role of the GP as the employer of practice nurses was problematic for some nurses and many felt there would be advantages to being employed on Agenda for Change terms and conditions. However, the majority of nurses interviewed preferred being employed by a GP rather than the Health Board. There was little support amongst either nurses or GPs for the notion of nurse partners within practices. Overall, these studies provide lessons which will be of value in planning the future training and development of practice nurses. It suggests that practice nurses should obtain proper training and support in order to meet their individual needs and to carry out new responsibilities and roles. In addition, the impending shortage of practice nurses due to retirement, lack of retention and potential recruitment difficulties needs to be addressed urgently at the level of primary care policy and manpower planning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: General Practice, Health Services Development, Skill Mix, Practice Nursing.
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: O'Donnell, Dr. Catherine
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr. H.M. Jabareen
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-632
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:20
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/632

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