Objectives: To review and draw together the existing research evidence to assess the impact of advanced primary care nursing roles, particularly first contact nursing roles, for patients, nurses themselves and their colleagues in order to highlight salient issues for policy, practice and research.
Background: Internationally, nurses' roles continue to expand in response to doctor shortages and policy drives to provide effective and efficient health services. A body of research exists from which to evaluate the impact of advanced nursing roles on various dimensions of healthcare delivery and organisation.
Design and data sources: Medline, CINAHL, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, British Nursing Index, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, National Research Register, and PsycINFO databases were searched, including relevant websites. Studies were included if published in English and relevant to the primary/community care setting. Of a total of 211 papers identified, 88 were of relevance and included in the review.
Results: Nurses working in many advanced primary care roles such as acute/minor illness, minor injury and long-term conditions provide safe and effective care, and patient satisfaction is generally high. Many factors influence patient satisfaction with, and access to, such services but are little understood. Evidence on cost-effectiveness, efficiency and impact on other health care professionals is inconclusive though research suggests the introduction of extended roles can create uncertainty and intra-/inter-professional tensions.
Conclusions: Evidence is of variable quality, often ignoring potentially important effect mediators such as the experience and educational level of advanced nurses, the effect of service 'maturation', organisational characteristics and differing patient preferences. The complex range of factors that influence patient satisfaction, access and outcomes of care need further investigation. Recent UK developments in nurse prescribing and the introduction of a national post-registration competency framework may improve working relations and patient understanding and experience of advanced nursing roles in primary care.