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This paper describes a district nursing study that considered the experiences and responses of primary health care professionals and their patients to changes taking place within the community. As a qualitative study it employed interviews as the main method of data collection and was informed by both ethnography and interpretative phenomenology. Forty-three study participants were interviewed, eliciting opinion on whether care is more than just a hands-on activity, whether patient need is being met and to what extent service policy is in tune with care delivery. Describing the views of primary health care professionals and patients in order to illustrate the complexity of the district nursing service and professional roles, the paper finds little shared vision between staff and managers of each other's responsibilities. It concludes that a more holistic approach to understanding professional roles is needed in order to satisfy the differing agendas of managers, staff and patients. It propounds the need for closer collaborative practice between health care professionals, for it finds that they value the ability to communicate as an essential element of their jobs. It reflects that, without such collaboration, it will be difficult for nurses to take a lead position on changes shaping community care.