Forging links: Evolving attitudes of clinical governance leads in general practice
Meal A., Wynn A., Pringle M., Cater R., Hippisley-Cox J.
Background. Clinical governance was introduced by the British government in 1998 at the same time as the creation, in England, of organisations to deliver it in primary care - primary care groups. It was acknowledged, however, that individual general practices and primary care teams would actually deliver many of the requirements of clinical governance on the ground. Because of this, the opinions and attittudes of the staffs at practive level, particularly the clinical governance leads in the practices, are important for the delivery of the clinical governance agenda. Objective. To investigate the views of practice clinical governance leads on their role in relation to the delivery of clinical governance. Design. A qualitative study using two sets of semi-structured interviews, one year apart. Setting. Nineteen general practices from 19 primary care organisations (PCOs) within Trent Region. Participants. Key informants nominated by each of the participating practices as being their clinical governance lead. Sixteen practices nominated general practitioners (GPs) (in One of these, two, GPs shared the role), one practice nominated a practice nurse co-ordinator, and another nominated both a practice nurse and practice manager to be interviewed. The remaining practive nominated a GP, practice manager and two practice nurses to be interviewed. Results. Attitudes of our informants to clinical governance are positive. There is an ongoing commitment to quality as clinical governance is being implemented at practice level. This is in spite of some initial reluctance by our informants to take on the role of clinical governance lead, and uncertainty about what the role would entail. In the first interviews there was a feeling that being clinical governance lead would involve a practice-centered approach, continuing existing practice quality initiatives such as clinical audit. One year later attitudes had evolved. Quality was still seen as important, but now more of our informants saw their role extending beyond the practice, in particular to a link role between themselves, their PCO and other practices. Conclusions. Clinical governance is being implemented in a positive climate in primary care, with an ongoing commitment to quality that predates the advent of clinical governance. The role of the practice clinical governance leads has evolved from a practice-centered approach to one that is more outward looking, as evidenced by a link role between practices and PCOs. We suggest that this role could facilitate many aspects of clinical governance, and as such it should be encouraged by PCOs, more specifically by enabling protected time for clinical governance work in practices.