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The nurse practitioner in primary care: Alleviating problems of access?Improving access to primary care services is an essential component of the NHS modernization plan and the advent of independent nurse practitioners in primary care has focused attention on the extent to which this group of nurses can effectively substitute for GPs. This study was designed to explore the role of a nurse practitioner in primary care, particularly whether the provision of a nurse practitioner facilitated access to care that met the needs of patients. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 patients who had consulted with the nurse practitioner, 10 staff within the practice who had knowledge of the role, and the nurse practitioner herself. With the permission of interviewees, interviews were audiotaped, the tapes transcribed verbatim, and the data were coded by theme. It was perceived by both groups of interviewees that access to care had been improved in that there were more appointments available, appointments were longer than they had been previously and were available at different times of the day. However, some areas in which access was 'restricted' were articulated by staff interviewees, such as limitations to the nurse practitioner's prescribing and problems with referring patients to secondary care. Additionally, while access to a member of the primary healthcare team was improved for many patients, access to a specific member of the team, such as a GP, was not always improved. Concerns were also expressed about how the role of the nurse practitioner needed to be developed in the practice. It can be concluded from this study that, potentially, the role of nurse practitioner has much to offer in terms of addressing problems of access in primary care for some patients. However, this is not a straightforward solution and in order for the role to be effective several issues highlighted in this study require addressing.