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Systematic review of whether nurse practitioners working in primary care can provide equivalent care to doctors

Horrocks, Sue; Anderson, Elizabeth; Salisbury, Chris


Sue Horrocks
Occasional Associate Lecturer - CHSS

Elizabeth Anderson

Chris Salisbury


Objective. To determine whether nurse practitioners can provide care at first point of contact equivalent to doctors in a primary care setting. Design. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies. Data sources. Cochrane controlled trials register, specialist register of trials maintained by Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, science citation index, database of abstracts of reviews of effectiveness, national research register, hand searches, and published bibliographies. Included studies. Randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies comparing nurse practitioners and doctors providing care at first point of contact for patients with undifferentiated health problems in a primary care setting and providing data on one or more of the following outcomes: patient satisfaction, health status, costs, and process of care. Results 11 trials and 23 observational studies met all the inclusion criteria. Patients were more satisfied with care by a nurse practitioner (standardised mean difference 0.27, 95% confidence interval 0.07 to 0.47). No differences in health status were found. Nurse practitioners had longer consultations (weighted mean difference 3.67 minutes, 2.05 to 5.29) and made more investigations (odds ratio 1.22, 1.02 to 1.46) than did doctors. No differences were found in prescriptions, return consultations, or referrals. Quality of care was in some ways better for nurse practitioner consultations. Conclusion. Increasing availability of nurse practitioners in primary care is likely to lead to high levels of patient satisfaction and high quality care.


Horrocks, S., Anderson, E., & Salisbury, C. (2002). Systematic review of whether nurse practitioners working in primary care can provide equivalent care to doctors. BMJ, 324(7341), 819-823.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 6, 2002
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2010
Journal British Medical Journal
Print ISSN 0959-8138
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 324
Issue 7341
Pages 819-823
Keywords nurse practitioners, primary care, doctors
Public URL
Publisher URL http:\\\10.1136/bmj.324.7341.819
Additional Information Additional Information : This study has received national and international attention in the medical and nursing press, and more widely in the media. To date (Sept 2007) it has been cited 208 times.