Primary care practitioners have a potentially important role in the delivery of specialist care for people with long-term respiratory diseases. Within the UK the development of a General Practitioner with Special Interests (GPwSI) service delivered within Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) involves a process of 'transitional change' which impacts on the professional roles of clinicians who may embrace or resist change. In addition, the perspective of patients on the new roles is important. The objective of the current study is to explore the attitudes and views of stakeholders to the provision of a respiratory GPwSI service within the six PCTs in Leicester, UK.
Using a qualitative design, GPs, nurses, secondary care doctors, nurse specialists, physiotherapists, a healthcare manager and patients with respiratory disease took part in focus groups and in-depth interviews.
The 25 participants expressed diverse opinions about the challenge of integrating specialist services with generalist care and the specific contribution that GPs might make to the care of people with chronic respiratory disease. A range of potential roles for a respiratory GPwSI, working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, were suggested, and a number of practical issues were highlighted. Success of the GPwSI role is deemed to be dependant on having the trust of their primary and secondary care colleagues as well as patients, credibility as a practitioner, and being politically astute thereby enabling them to act as a champion supporting the transition process within the local health service.
The introduction of a respiratory GPwSI service represents a challenge to traditional roles which, whilst broadly acceptable, raised a number of important issues for the stakeholders in our study. These perspectives need to be taken into account if workforce change is to be successfully negotiated and implemented.