Objectives To describe the attitudes, awareness and use of evidence across key professional groups working in primary care.
Methods A postal questionnaire was sent to all lead/chairs, general managers, clinical governance leads, lead nurses, lead pharmacists and public health practitioners working in local health care cooperatives in Scotland.
Results 289 (66.1%) health care professionals responded, ranging from 51% of general managers to 80% of lead nurses. All professional groups supported evidence-based practice. General practitioners (GPs) were less likely to agree that they had the skills to carry out literature reviews or appraise evidence compared to nurses and public health facilitators (36% vs. 75% vs. 80%; 51% vs. 64% vs. 70%). Access to the internet and bibliographic databases was good for all groups but GPs used a narrower spectrum of evidence-based journals, relying mainly on medical literature. Only nurses and public health practitioners appeared to have any understanding of qualitative research terms. Public health practitioners were also least likely to view guidelines or protocols developed by others as the best source of evidence for primary care. The major perceived barrier to practising evidence-based practice was time. Consequently the most important facilitator was protected time, but increased resources (financial and staff) and training were also cited. Professional groups other than GPs perceived inter-professional boundaries as a barrier and suggested multi-professional teamworking and learning as potential supports for evidence-based practice.
Conclusions While all professional groups welcome and support evidence-based practice, there are clear differences in the starting point and perspectives across the groups. These need to recognized and addressed to ensure that learning the skills of evidence-based practice and implementing evidence are effective. This will also enhance the ability of primary care organizations to develop robust mechanisms for supporting key aspects of clinical governance.