‘There’s a will, but not a way’: Norwegian GPs’ experiences of collaboration with child welfare services – a grounded theory study

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Adverse childhood experiences can have immediate effects on a child’s wellbeing and health and may also result in disorders and illness in adult life. General practitioners are in a good position to identify and support vulnerable children and parents and to collaborate with other agencies such as child welfare services. There is a need for better integration of relevant services. The aim of this study is to explore GPs’ experiences of the collaboration process with child welfare services.

This is a qualitative grounded theory study, with data consisting of ten semi-structured interviews with general practitioners across Norway.

The doctors’ main concern was: ‘There’s a will, but not a way’. Three subordinate stages of the collaboration process were identified: (I) Familiar territory, with a whole-person approach to care by the doctor. (II) Unfamiliar territory, when child welfare becomes involved. Here, a one-way window of information and a closed door to dialogue perpetuate the doctors’ lack of knowledge about child welfare services and uncertainty about what is happening to their patients. (III) Fragmented territory, where doctors experience lost opportunities to help and missing pieces in the patient’s history.

General practitioners are willing to contribute to a collaborative process with child welfare, but this is hampered by factors such as poor information flow and opportunities for dialogue, and limited knowledge of the partner. This implies lost opportunities for doctors to help families and contribute their knowledge and potential actions to a child welfare case. It can also impede whole-person care and lead to fragmentation of patient pathways. To counteract this, electronic two-way communication could enable a collaborative process and relationships that enhance coordination between the parties. Making space for all parties and their individual roles was considered important to create a positive collaborative environment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Primary Care
Issue number36
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2024

ID: 380360893