Understanding primary care perspectives on supporting women’s health needs: a qualitative study
Toye F., MacLellan J., Dixon S., McNiven A.
BackgroundA consultation for the Women’s Health Strategy for England in 2022 highlighted a need to understand and develop how general practice can support women’s health needs.AimTo understand the perspectives and experiences of primary care practitioners (PCPs) about supporting women’s healthcare needs.Design and settingInterpretive qualitative research set in general practice in England.MethodPCPs working in general practice settings were recruited through research and professional networks. Semi-structured interviews were conducted via telephone or Microsoft Teams, audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed through reflexive thematic analysis.ResultsIn total, 46 PCPs were interviewed. Participants had a range of roles and worked in a variety of primary care settings. Results are presented within six themes: 1) being alongside a person from cradle to grave; 2) maintaining the balance between general and specialist skills; 3) generalists and specialists combined make more than the sum of their parts; 4) striving for equity in a collapsing system; 5) firefighting with limited resources; and 6) the GP is being cast as the villain.ConclusionThe findings show that relationships and advocacy are valued as fundamental for women’s health in general practice, and highlight the adverse impact of threats to these on staff and services. Developing specialist roles and bespoke services can foster staff wellbeing and could support retention. However, care is needed to ensure that service configuration changes do not result in clinician deskilling or rendering services inaccessible. Care is needed when services evolve to ensure that core aspects of general practice are not diminished or devalued. GP teams are well placed to advocate for their patients, including commitment to seeking equitable care, and these skills and specialist knowledge should be actively recognised, valued, and nurtured.