An 'endless struggle': a qualitative study of general practitioners' and practice nurses' experiences of managing multimorbidity in socio-economically deprived areas of Scotland

Chronic Illn. 2011 Mar;7(1):45-59. doi: 10.1177/1742395310382461. Epub 2010 Oct 25.


Objectives: To understand general practitioners' (GPs) and practice nurses' (PNs) experiences of managing multimorbidity in deprived areas and elicit views on what might help.

Methods: Qualitative interviews with 19 GPs and PNs in four practices with a high percentage of patients living in the top 15% most deprived areas of Scotland. Data were analysed using constant comparison.

Results: Professionals' discussions of how they managed multimorbidity captured: (1) definitions of multimorbidity that included multiple social, psychological, and health problems associated with deprivation; (2) descriptions of the 'endless struggle' of patients trying to manage illnesses in the midst of chaotic lives with limited personal, social, and material resources; (3) accounts of the ongoing struggle of professionals trying to manage, with personal consequences for some; and (4) ideas on what might help, including 'whole person' approaches.

Discussion: Professionals' discussions of the difficulties that they face personally and attempt to help those most in need reflect both the continuing existence of the 'inverse care law' and the need for whole system changes to enhance the effectiveness of primary care for patients with multimorbidity in deprived areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Poverty
  • Qualitative Research
  • Scotland
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological