Challenges in the cross-sectoral collaboration on vulnerable pregnant women: a qualitative study among Danish general practitioners

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Background Vulnerable pregnant women, defined as women threatened by social, psychological, or physical risk factors, need special support during pregnancy to prevent complications in pregnancy, birth, and childhood. Proper cross-sectoral collaboration in antenatal care is paramount to delivering sufficient supportive care to these women. General practitioners (GPs) often face barriers when assessing vulnerable pregnant women and may; as a result, under-identify and underreport child abuse. Little is known about how the cross-sectoral collaboration in antenatal care affects the GP's opportunities of managing vulnerable pregnant women. This study explores GPs' perceived barriers and facilitators in the antenatal care collaboration on vulnerable pregnant women and in the reporting of these women to social services. Methods A qualitative study with semi-structured focus group interviews among twenty GPs from the Region of Southern Denmark. A mixed inductive and deductive analytic strategy was applied, structured according to the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Results Three themes emerged: I) collaborative experience, II) motivation, and III) organizational working conditions. Barriers were lacking experience, i.e. knowledge, skills, and attention to antenatal care collaboration and reporting, inadequate organizational working contexts, i.e. insufficient pathways for communication between health care and social care systems, and laws restricting feedback on the consequences of reporting. This decreased the GPs motivation, i.e. poor confidence in navigating the system, fear of breaking the patient alliance when collaborating in antenatal care and reporting with the social services. GPs motivation to collaborate and report was increased by knowing the working contexts of their collaborative partners in the antenatal care and social services system and by a strong doctor-patient relationship enabling them to describe the vulnerability to collaborators. Conclusions GPs experience system-related barriers to collaborating and reporting on vulnerable pregnant women within the health care sector and in the interplay with the social services sector. Organizational development of cross-sectoral antenatal care collaboration should imply user involvement of all collaborative partners. Results suggest that health authorities should consider establishing accessible communication pathways between the GPs and the social services to improve options for proper cross-sectoral communication and feedback to GPs, thereby improving care trajectories of vulnerable pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number187
JournalBMC Primary Care
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • Vulnerability, Pregnancy, General practice, Cross-sectoral collaboration, Antenatal care, Social reporting, Barriers, Facilitators, RISK-FACTORS, POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, IDENTIFICATION, MANAGEMENT, BARRIERS, SIZE

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