Introduction: Well-Child Care (WCC) is the provision of preventive health care services for children and their families. Prior research has highlighted that several barriers exist for the provision of WCC services.
Objectives: To study "real life" visits of parents and children with health professionals in order to enhance the theoretical understanding of factors affecting WCC.
Methods: Participant observations of a cross-sectional sample of 71 visits at three general practices were analysed using a mixed-methods approach.
Results: The median age of the children was 18 months (IQR, 6-36 months), and the duration of visits was 13 mins (IQR, 9-18 mins). The reasons for the visits were immunisation in 13 (18.5%), general check-up in 10 (13.8%), viral illness in 33 (49.2%) and miscellaneous reasons in 15 (18.5%). Two clusters with low and high WCC emerged; WCC was associated with higher GP patient-centeredness scores, younger age of the child, fewer previous visits, immunisation and general check-up visits, and the solo general practitioner setting. Mothers born overseas received less WCC advice, while longer duration of visit increased WCC. GPs often made observations on physical growth and development and negotiated mothers concerns to provide reassurance to them. The working style of the GP which encouraged informal conversations with the parents enhanced WCC. There was a lack of systematic use of developmental screening measures.
Conclusions: GPs and practice nurses are providing parent/child centered WCC in many visits, particularly when parents present for immunisation and general check-ups. Providing funding and practice nurse support to GPs, and aligning WCC activities with all immunisation visits, rather than just a one-off screening approach, appears to be the best way forward. A cluster randomised trial for doing structured WCC activities with immunisation visits would provide further evidence for cost-effectiveness studies to inform policy change.