• general practice;
  • health promotion;
  • practice nursing;
  • satisfaction;
  • women's health;
  • user views

Aspects of the views of women aged 16–65 years on practice nurses in the primary health care setting are explored. The extent to which women consult practice nurses and the reasons for consultation are first identified. Women's assessments of practice nurses are then examined. The findings are from a 3-year research project where 1251 women completed a postal questionnaire and 70 women were interviewed in depth about issues concerning women's perceptions and experiences of both general practitioners (GPs) and practice nurses. Two thirds of the sample had consulted the practice nurse; 22% about specific women's health issues (including 13% for cervical screening). For most women's health issues, more women expressed a preference to be seen by a general practitioner (GP) than a practice nurse, except for breast examination among women aged 49 to 65 years where 57% expressed a preference for a practice nurse compared with 43% for a GP. Women gave similarly positive evaluations of the approachability of practice nurses and GPs. Positive views of practice nurses were high among older women, women who saw practice nurses in well-women clinics and women who saw practice nurses in relation to women's health issues. Among women who had not consulted a practice nurse, there was both a lack of awareness of the level and range of expertise of practice nurses, and a perception that in the main they offered only minor routine services. Health promotion, disease prevention and family planning do not appear to feature centrally in women's expectations of services provided by the practice nurse.