District nurses' experience of providing care in residential care home settings
• Little research describes the involvement and contribution of primary health care services in residential homes, despite policy and research concerns that older people in residential homes are a vulnerable population for whom care must be improved. • The aim of this research was to explore the actual and potential contribution of primary care nurses in residential homes for older people, particularly district nurses. • Five focus groups were held with district nurses in one county in England, to explore how participants represented their views, values and experiences of working in residential homes. • Our major finding was the importance of context in shaping the experience of district nursing involvement. General practitioner attachment determined the frequency of visiting homes and affected workload. District nurses had regular contact with residential homes for discrete nursing tasks, but appropriateness of referrals and input was not agreed. • The focus group discussions with district nurses revealed how problematic their work in residential homes was and a lack of consensus about their role. The data suggested that uncertainty about providing care in a setting that straddles the health and social care, public and private divide, and anxieties about managing their workload overshadowed their acknowledged concerns about the older people in residential care homes. Further research is needed to substantiate the findings, obtain residents' views and address issues of how to achieve integrated and equitable health and social care for this group.