General practitioners: Their contact with maternal and child health nurses in postnatal care


  • C Mbwili-Muleya, MB BS, MPH, MPH Student. J Gunn, DRACOG, FRACGP, PhD, Senior Lecturer. M Jenkins, PhD, Senior Lecturer.

Correspondence: DrJaneGunn Department of General Practice and Public Health, University of Melbourne, 200 Berkeley Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia. Fax: (03) 9347 6136; email:


Objective: To assess the level of contact of general practitioners (GP) with maternal and child health nurses (MCHN) in postnatal care.

Methodology: A postal survey of 1104 Victorian GP was used, with a response rate of 70%. To account for the clustered sampling frame, hierarchical data analysis techniques were used.

Results: Half of the GP (351/710) had no contact with their local MCHN in the previous month; and one in 10 had four or more contacts. Eighty-eight per cent of GP described the contact as helpful. In 56% of cases the MCHN was reported as the usual initiator of the contact. The most common reason for contact concerned the baby’s physical problems (42%). After adjusting for the number of women seen for the routine 6-week postnatal review and other GP characteristics, male GP were as likely as female GP to report MCHN contact (odds ratio (OR) = 1.00; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.67–1.62). General practitioners aged 31–40 years were more likely to report contact with MCHN than GP aged 51–60 (OR = 0.45; 95% CI = 0.22–0.86) as were GP with the FRACGP qualification (OR = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.21–2.45).

Conclusions: This study provides baseline information on the level of GP contact with MCHN as they provide postnatal care. Although there were GP in Victoria who maintained a level of contact with MCHN, almost half reported no contact in the previous month. Most GP who reported contact with MCHN found it useful. This finding should encourage GP and MCHN coordination to improve continuity and postnatal care outcomes.