Background: Infertility management in primary care is variable. National Institute of Clinical Excellence have recommended hysterosalpingography (HSG) as a first-line investigation for tubal assessment. Aim To explore general practitioners' (GPs) perceptions of, and attitudes to, the initial management of the infertile couple and their views on open access to HSG.
Design: Qualitative study using three focus groups.
Setting: Seven general practices in Newcastle upon Tyne and Northumberland.
Subjects: We purposively selected the three focus groups to provide a range of GPs' views. In total 13 practitioners participated: 11 GPs, one GP registrar and one nurse practitioner.
Results: The key themes to emerge were: (1) perceived professional responsibilities, (2) uncertainty and lack of knowledge, (3) consistency of approach to the initial management of infertility, and (4) access to infertility services. Some GPs felt that they should do all they possibly could, while others felt it was the responsibility of the infertility specialist. Uncertainty and lack of knowledge was linked to the relative infrequency of primary care infertility consultations and the difficulty 'keeping up to date' with rapidly advancing reproductive technologies in tertiary care. Some GPs subscribed to the notion of one suitably trained clinician delivering the service on behalf of a group of GPs. Some were unsure where HSG fitted into the overall management plan, but they were comfortable with following recommended guidelines.
Conclusions: GPs recognize an advocacy role and many take on a significant degree of clinical responsibility welcoming the introduction of a new technology in primary care. Nevertheless, GPs feel that they lack proficiency and have little opportunity to rehearse the necessary skills. These findings contribute to an understanding of the management of infertility, an infrequently presenting problem in primary care.