The 5-step family intervention in primary care: 2 – The views of primary health care professionals


Background: This is the second of two papers using qualitative methods from a study of an intervention for family members affected by close relatives' substance misuse problems. Participants: 168 primary healthcare professionals (PHCPs: GPs, practice nurses and health visitors) working in general practices in two areas of England, and who took part in the study. Data sources: Recruitment and post-session forms completed by PHCPs; telephone interviews with each PHCP 12 weeks after recruitment of a family member; interviews with PHCPs at the end of the study. Results: At the end of the project PHCPs were overwhelmingly positive about the family member intervention and about primary care as the appropriate site. Difficulties were encountered, however, in identifying and engaging affected family members, who were often excluded on grounds of the complexity of their problems or the level of their distress. Shortage of PHCP time and other practice-related factors added to the difficulty. Active work by a PHCP was often necessary in order to make the link between presenting symptoms of physical or mental ill-health and the existence of a family substance misuse problem. When family members were identified and recruited, PHCPs were usually positive about what was achieved. Nearly all were in favour of an approach that combined giving a self-help manual with some follow-up contact with a family member as needed. Conclusions: Taken in conjunction with statistical outcome findings of significant reductions in symptoms and changes in ways of coping, plus qualitative analysis of the views of family members, the present results encourage the view that a flexible form of this intervention should be developed for use in primary healthcare, and that further work should build on existing strengths and attempt to overcome weaknesses identified.

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