Study protocol: A mixed-methods realist evaluation of the Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland

Lawrence Doi (Lead / Corresponding author), Kathleen Morrison, Ruth Astbury, Jane Eunson, Margaret A. Horne, Ruth Jepson, Louise Marryat, Rachel Ormston, Rachael Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction The growing political emphasis on the early years reflects the importance of these formative years of life. Health visitors in the UK are uniquely positioned to improve health outcomes for children and families and to reduce health inequalities. Recently, there has been a policy change in Scotland in an attempt to enhance the delivery of the universal health visiting service. This study aims to examine the extent to which the enhanced Universal Health Visiting Pathway is implemented and delivered across Scotland and to assess any associated impacts. Methods and analysis A mixed-methods study incorporating four methodological components and uses realist evaluation as the overall conceptual framework. It comprises three phases (1) initial programme theory development; (2) programme theory validation and (3) programme theory refinement. The programme theory validation will use interview and focus group data of parents and health visitors, and conduct a case note review at five study sites. It also involves a national survey of parents and health visitors and routine data analysis of existing secondary data. The analyses of the ensuing qualitative and quantitative data will be carried out using a convergent mixed-methods approach to ensure continuous triangulation of multiple data. The findings of the evaluation will provide contextually relevant understanding of how the Universal Health Visiting Pathway works and evidence the impact of increased investments in health visiting in Scotland. Ethics and dissemination This protocol has been approved by the School of Health in Social Science Research Ethics Committee, University of Edinburgh. Additional approvals have been granted/will be sought from the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for health and social care in Scotland for the case note review,survey and routine data analysis elements of the evaluation. The findings will be prepared as reports to the funders and presented at conferences. It will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere042305
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2020


  • community child health
  • health policy
  • maternal medicine
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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