Introduction: In New Zealand in 2003, 11 primary health care (PHC) nursing innovation projects and an evaluation of the initiative were funded by the Ministry of Health to develop and explore the ways new models of nursing practice could help address health inequalities and contribute to PHC.
Design and Methods: A research-and-development approach was used in the evaluation. Data were gathered from interviews with national stakeholders, workshops with personnel from all projects, visits to each project site and case studies of four projects. Analysis involved assessing each project individually as well as the projects as a whole.
Context: The initiative was one of many international and local PHC developments in this period designed to reduce health inequalities and improve patient care and health outcomes.
Findings: Each project was developed from a different starting point; was located in different parts of the health system; and had different levels of funding. Some were principally focused on leading nursing development; others focused on developing nursing practice. Each involved influencing or providing nursing services, nurse education, leadership and service integration. Most projects progressed well, but some had limited success.
Lessons: Lessons are on many levels, and include those related to: developing successful innovation; the importance of nursing leadership; developing the nursing workforce; and advancing nursing practice.
Conclusion: The funding of the innovative projects enabled nurses to pioneer developments. Such funding is important, as it paves the way for change and provides an opportunity for reflection and new learnings.