Background: A well-functioning general practice sector that has a strong research component is recognised as a key foundation of any modern health system. General practitioners (GPs) are more likely to collaborate in research if they are part of an established research network. The primary aims of this study are to describe Ireland's newest general practice-based research network and to analyse the perspectives of the network's members on research engagement.
Method: A survey was sent to all GPs participating in the network in order to document practice characteristics so that this research network's profile could be compared to other national profiles of Irish general practice. In depth interviews were then conducted and analysed thematically to explore the experiences and views of a selection of these GPs on research engagement.
Results: All 134 GPs responded to the survey. Practices have similar characteristics to the national profile in terms of location, size, computerisation, type of premises and out of hours arrangements. Twenty-two GPs were interviewed and the resulting data was categorised into subthemes and four related overarching themes: GPs described catalysts for research in their practices, the need for coherence in how research is understood in this context, systems failures, whereby the current health system design is prohibitive of GP participation and aspirations for a better future.
Conclusion: This study has demonstrated that the research network under examination is representative of current trends in Irish general practice. It has elucidated a better understanding of factors that need to be addressed in order to encourage more GPs to engage in the research process.
Keywords: General practice; General practice research; General practitioners; Health systems research; Practice-based research networks; Primary healthcare.