Methods and findings: In a cluster randomised controlled trial design, 38 public sector primary care clinics in the Western Cape province, South Africa, were randomised. Nurses in the intervention clinics were trained to use the PC101 management tool during educational outreach sessions delivered by health department trainers and authorised to prescribe an expanded range of drugs for several NCDs. Control clinics continued use of the Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV /AIDS in South Africa (PALSA PLUS) management tool and usual training. Patients attending these clinics with one or more of hypertension (3227), diabetes (1842), chronic respiratory disease (1157) or screened positive for depression (2466), totalling 4393 patients, were enrolled between March 2011 and October 2011. Primary outcomes were treatment intensification for hypertension, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease cohorts, defined as the proportion of patients in whom treatment was escalated during follow-up over 14 months, and case detection in the depression cohort. Primary outcome data were analysed for 2110 (97%) intervention and 2170 (97%) control group patients. Treatment intensification rates in intervention clinics were not superior to those in the control group clinics [hypertension: 44% in the intervention group versus 40% in the controls, risk ratio (RR) 1.08 (95% CI: 0.94 to 1.24; p=0.252); diabetes: 57% v 50%, RR 1.10 (0.97 to 1.24;p=0.126); chronic respiratory disease: 14% v 12%, RR 1.08 (0.75 to 1.55; p=0.674); and case detection of depression: 18% v 24%, RR 0.76 (0.53 to 1.10; p=0.142)]. No adverse effects of the nurses’ expanded scope of practice were observed. Limitations of the study include dependence on self-reported diagnoses for inclusion in the patient cohorts, limited data on uptake of PC101 by users, reliance on process outcomes, and insufficient resources to measure important health outcomes, such as HbA1c, at follow-up.
Conclusions: Educational outreach to primary care nurses through use of a management tool involving an expanded role in managing NCDs, is feasible and safe but was not associated with treatment intensification or case detection for index diseases. This notwithstanding, the intervention, with adjustments to improve its effectiveness, has been adopted for implementation in primary care clinics throughout South Africa.
- Norwich Medical School - Professor of Health Services Research
- Norwich Institute for Healthy Aging - Member
- Population Health - Member
- Norwich Epidemiology Centre - Member
- Health Services and Primary Care - Member
Person: Research Group Member, Research Centre Member, Academic, Teaching & Research