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Historical trends encouraging the extended role of the nurse in general practice are described, and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) policy regarding this and the legal position of the nurse, discussed. The results of a postal questionnaire to all 192 Directors of Nursing Services (DNSs) (Community) in England are presented. The study aimed to document the extent to which nursing policies at district level had been developed to meet DHSS recommendations. Although 71% of the DNSs questioned said a policy on the extended role of the nurse had been drawn up in their districts, few met all three criteria recommended by the DHSS: specific task definition, training requirements and legal safeguards.