Audits have shown numerous deficiencies in the quality of hypertension and diabetes primary care in Barbados, despite distribution of regional guidelines. This study aimed to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes and practices, and the barriers faced by primary care practitioners in Barbados concerning the recommendations of available diabetes and hypertension guidelines.
Focus groups using a moderator's manual were conducted at all 8 public sector polyclinics, and 5 sessions were held for private practitioners.
Polyclinic sessions were attended by 63 persons (17 physicians, 34 nurses, 3 dieticians, 3 podiatrists, 5 pharmacists, and 1 other), and private sector sessions by 20 persons (12 physicians, 1 nurse, 3 dieticians, 2 podiatrists and 2 pharmacists).
Practitioners generally thought they gave a good quality of care. Commonwealth Caribbean Medical Research Council 1995 diabetes and 1998 hypertension guidelines, and the Ministry of Health 2001 diabetes protocol had been seen by 38%, 32% and 78% respectively of polyclinic practitioners, 67%, 83%, and 33% of private physicians, and 25%, 0% and 38% of non-physician private practitioners. Current guidelines were considered by some to be outdated, unavailable, difficult to remember and lacking in advice to tackle barriers. Practitioners thought that guidelines should be circulated widely, promoted with repeated educational sessions, and kept short. Patient oriented versions of the guidelines were welcomed.
Patient factors causing barriers to ideal outcome included denial and fear of stigma; financial resources to access an appropriate diet, exercise and monitoring equipment; confusion over medication regimens, not valuing free medication, belief in alternative medicines, and being unable to change habits. System barriers included lack of access to blood investigations, clinic equipment and medication; the lack of human resources in polyclinics; and an uncoordinated team approach. Patients faced cultural barriers with regards to meals, exercise, appropriate body size, footwear, medication taking, and taking responsibility for one's health; and difficulty getting time off work to attend clinic.
Guidelines need to be promoted repeatedly, and implemented with strategies to overcome barriers. Their development and implementation must be guided by input from all providers on the primary health care team.