The growing burden of chronic and complex disease, and population aging have driven a significant growth in primary health care services internationally . In New Zealand some 80% of the population will visit their general practice annually . To meet this growing demand there has been significant evolution of the primary health care workforce. In particular, there has been substantial growth and development in nursing services provided within general practice . Indeed, many patients will visit their general practice and see only the practice nurse to receive health care services .
Given the rapidly changing nature of the primary care workforce it is important that the views of the community and the recipients of the growing general practice nursing services are explored. The importance of involving the community in health service development and evaluation has long been recognised . Indeed, patient satisfaction has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the five criteria for good health care quality . As higher levels of patient satisfaction have been linked to improved compliance with therapeutic regimes and better clinical outcomes it behoves researchers and policy makers to explore these issues in a timely manner [7, 8].
Despite the growing attention paid to satisfaction with general practice, internationally, limited research has been undertaken to explore consumer perceptions of general practice nursing [9–12]. Whilst some general practice satisfaction scales include a small number of items about nursing services, few collect sufficient information to provide a detailed insight into consumer perceptions of general practice nurses . With the shifting focus to team-based models of care in general practice, it is timely to increase the focus on consumers’ perceptions of nurses as health professionals in their own right.
A small number of Australian studies have identified broad consumer support for the general practice nurse role [13, 14]. A limitation of these investigations, however, is that many participants had not actually received services from a practice nurse, but rather were providing their opinion about how they thought they would feel about receiving services from a nurse in that setting.
A number of studies have investigated patient satisfaction with nurse-led clinic interventions [15, 16]. In their Australian paper, Mahomed et al.  reported the development of a grounded theory of patients’ satisfaction from a larger study exploring a practice nurse-led model of chronic disease management. This study described how patients undergo a cyclical process of what they described as “navigating care”. This cycle incorporated the three stages of determining care needs, forming relationships and having confidence . Failure to adequately develop any of these stages increased the chance that the participants would opt out of the nurse-led care intervention.
In New Zealand, Marshall et al.  reported data from an 8-item survey on consultation satisfaction related to healthy lifestyle clinics. These items focussed broadly on satisfaction with the consultation, exploring factors such as adequacy of the consultation room and impact of the education provided on confidence and health. Despite a relatively low response rate, respondents provided over 85% agreement with all items, except the ability to book an appointment easily. This highlights the challenge of the ceiling effect found in many quantitative measures of patient satisfaction .
Given that these studies focus on patients who are participating in a trial of nurse-led care, participants may not reflect the broader general practice population. It is timely, to explore consumers’ experiences of receiving services from general practice nurses in the naturalistic setting.