Aim: This paper is a report of a study conducted to evaluate process and outcomes of care provided to patients with common complaints by general practitioners or specially trained nurse practitioners as first point of contact.
Background: Studies in the United States of America and Great Britain show that substituting nurse practitioners for general practitioners results in higher patient satisfaction and higher quality of care. As the American and British healthcare system and settings differ from that in The Netherlands, a Dutch trial was conducted.
Methods: A total of 1501 patients in 15 general practices were randomized to consultation by a general practitioner or a nurse practitioner. Data were collected over a 6-month period in 2006 by means of questionnaires, extracting medical records from practice computer systems and recording the length of consultations.
Findings: In both groups, the patients highly appreciated the quality of care. No statistically significant differences were found in health status, medical resource consumption and compliance of practical guidelines in primary care in The Netherlands. Patients in the NP intervention group were more often invited to re-attend, had more follow-up consultations and their consultations took statistically significantly longer.
Conclusion: Nurse practitioners and general practitioners provide comparable care. Our findings support an increased involvement of specially trained nurse practitioners in the Dutch primary care and contribute to knowledge of the effectiveness of care provision by nurse practitioners from a national and international perspective.