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The guideline contradiction: health visitors' use of formal guidelines for identifying and assessing families in need

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

J V Appleton, S Cowley

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785 - 797
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004

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  • King's College London


The aim of this paper is to examine health visitors' use of formal guidelines in identifying health needs and prioritising families requiring extra health visiting support. With the increasing emphasis on targeted health visiting, a case study was used to explore the extent to which health visitors in three case sites use needs assessment guidelines in the assessment of family health need. The findings indicate how the presence of core visiting protocols hints at elements of control by managers, leading to conflicts in the relationship between professional judgements and official guidelines. Despite a management ethos of guideline formulation, several contradictions exist for which these guidelines are a focus. These include: little involvement of health visitors in guideline development, some staff not informed about the existence of formal guidelines, little evidence of guidelines contributing to improved client outcomes and their limited use by many health visitors in practice. Thus, even when guidelines exist, no accurate predictions can be made about health visitors' knowledge of or use of such guidelines in practice. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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