A follow-up study of professionals' perspectives on the development of family health nursing in Scotland: a questionnaire survey
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Background In 1998 the World Health Organisation Europe introduced the Family Health Nurse concept. The envisaged role of this community-based nurse was seen as multi-faceted and included helping individuals, families and communities to cope with illness and improve their health. During 2000–2002 Scotland led enactment of the concept through education and practice, and the first research study evaluating its operation and impact in remote and rural areas was published in 2003. Objective This study's purpose was to follow up health care professionals’ perspectives on the development of family health nursing in remote and rural areas of Scotland since 2002. Methods The main research method used was questionnaire survey of all the established family health nurses in these areas and all other health and social care professionals with whom they had regular work-related contact. Where novel contexts or practice patterns emerged, further investigation was undertaken through telephone interviews. Findings Twenty-three family health nurses (88%) and 88 of their colleagues (52%) returned questionnaires. Eight family health nurses were interviewed. The dominant theme within the findings was the gradual, positive development of a role which tended to maintain established community nursing service provision, yet also supplement this with a limited expansion of family health services and public health activities. The flexibility and wide scope of the FHN role in terms of providing generalist community health nursing services was clearly evident. However, capacity to engage with whole families was found to vary widely in practice. Conclusions Within remote and rural Scotland family health nursing is gradually consolidating and developing, but its particular aspiration to engage with whole families is often difficult to enact and is not a priority within mainstream UK primary care policy, planning or provision.