Methods: We carried out a qualitative interview study alongside a randomised controlled trial which tested the effectiveness of asthma nurse specialists in east London. We carried out face-to-face interviews with five asthma nurse specialists, eight general practitioners (GPs) and six practice nurses, and also held a focus group session with six people who had attended hospital with acute asthma.
Results: Four factors were associated with effective specialist nurse liaison: (1) primary care practices which prioritised asthma care; (2) GPs who trusted practice nurses to manage chronic disease autonomously; (3) GPs who recognised specialist nurse expertise and acted on their advice; and (4) practices which had simple systems in place to deal with recommendations. Patients found nurse specialists approachable and informative.
Conclusions: Asthma specialist nurse influence was greatest in practices that prioritised asthma care and where practice nurses had clinical autonomy. Patients valued specialist nurses but found advice from a multiplicity of clinicians confusing. Ensuring that practices prioritise chronic disease care, and improving the credibility of nurse specialists amongst GPs, may improve the effectiveness of asthma nurse specialists.