I was recently invited to address the annual general meeting of PROSPECT, a local prostate cancer support group. The brief I was given was to discuss the GP’s role in diagnosing prostate cancer and the latest research in this area; a daunting task to tackle in a room full of men with prostate cancer at various stages on their cancer journey.
I spoke of the GP’s role across the continuum of cancer, from prevention and early diagnosis through to survivorship support and palliative care. I tried to discuss some of the latest studies in the field, such as the PROMIS study and the CAP trial, in a digestible form for these men. I also mused with them about the potential role new genetic technologies will have in the future in guiding GPs in determining cancer risk … Read more
I have a problem with gambling. There’s not enough of it.
That was the admission from billionaire Steve Wynn, a major figure in the casino industry, speaking at a recent gambling research conference in (where else?) Las Vegas. And sure, it made for a good quote. But it’s also a rather glib dismissal of a serious issue that affects many thousands of people across the world.
The UK certainly has a problem with gambling. At least it has since 2007, when laws were changed to allow for huge growth in gambling opportunities and exposure. It has been hard to ignore the subsequent explosion in industry advertising, which increased by around 500% between 2007 and 2013. By contrast, you may have missed the increased numbers of high intensity electronic gambling … Read more
I have been a researcher for over two decades. In that time, lamentations about the limited influence of research evidence have grown. But I think we researchers are largely to blame. We steadfastly insist on disseminating our knowledge in ways that we know don’t work.
Researchers usually write scientific papers, because publication is a key career performance metric. But scientific papers are read and digested by other scientists, not those who can act on our findings. Our ethnographic study showed how and why research doesn’t reach policymakers, like healthcare commissioners.
We found that local healthcare commissioners cannot retrieve papers from many scientific journals, as they often do not have passwords or subscriptions. Although open access publication helps, commissioners usually use Google, where scientific papers often do not appear – even if open access. If a … Read more
There has been a transformation in social and scientific attitudes to depression in my working lifetime. It is no longer acceptable to stigmatise mental illness or psychological distress. The idea that the common mental disorders of depression and anxiety are an inescapable part of being human has been replaced by a belief that these disabling extremes of sadness and worry are treatable conditions.
Changes in the treatment of depression have been part of wider cultural changes. There is an increased openness about sadness and distress, and a widespread belief, beginning with Freud, that at the very least ‘neurotic misery can be transformed into ordinary unhappiness’. The invention of psychotherapy has spawned numerous schools and sub-disciplines, but all hold to the common belief that with help, … Read more
People are increasingly living with long-term health conditions. Management of these conditions is expensive, and their increased prevalence challenges health system sustainability and current service models. Can alternative models of care meet the needs of patients with long-term conditions at an acceptable cost?
One growing area of healthcare that could serve as a replacement or adjunct to traditional care models is telehealth, which is the remote provision of healthcare by a variety of communication tools. Telehealth advocates argue that the wider use of technology and a greater reliance on self-management in supporting patients with long-term conditions may produce the same or better health outcomes, but at a lower cost, than traditional care modalities. Is this optimism justified, and might telehealth be good value for the NHS?
The 3D study, led by researchers from the Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC), is examining a new approach for GP practices to manage patients with multiple long-term health problems.
Meeting a need
Existing treatment is based on guidelines for each separate condition meaning that patients often attend multiple appointments for each disease which can be repetitive, inconvenient and inefficient. They see different nurses and doctors who may give conflicting advice. These patients frequently get depressed and they also sometimes complain that no-one treats them as a ‘whole person’ or takes their views into account.
The 3D approach was developed by patients and GPs together to address these issues. Based around patient-centred care, the approach focuses on three ‘D’s: Depression, Drugs and the patient’s Dimensions of health, such as their quality of life, priorities and … Read more
However, before I even knew what that term meant, I was several other things: a writer, a performer, a poet. I am drawn to words, and to the stories that they form. This is why I am passionate about qualitative research. I also love performance, and believe it is a fantastic mechanism for powerfully communicating important messages about humanity.
On my arrival at the University of Bristol, I was therefore thrilled to learn that the project I would be working on with Principal Investigator Ruth Riley included a collaboration with a performance artist, who would be communicating our findings about GPs’ mental health to an audience. This performance was to happen as part of the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute’s (EBI) Feel It Festival. … Read more
Seek the truth, not what is comfortable. Seek the real, not the easy.
— Gerald May
Talking about domestic violence and abuse can be uncomfortable. Avoiding talking about uncomfortable subjects keeps them hidden, fails to challenge injustice and arguably colludes with perpetration. We have a responsibility to shine a light into these dark corners.
In the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol we conduct research on improving the health care response to domestic violence and abuse. We have measured the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in patients in general practice and sexual health services; developed and rigorously tested training for doctors and nurses in general practice to ask about DVA and link patients disclosing abuse to specialist domestic violence advocates; run programmes on … Read more
Imagine being given £400m of taxpayers’ money to spend on drugs for the benefit of NHS cancer patients. How would you decide which therapies to fund? Would you decide that all cancer patients should benefit equally, or would you decide to spend more on particular types of cancer, or on particular types of patient?
These issues were confronted by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), the 2014/15 expenditures of which were £416m (against a budget of £280m). The CDF was created to make available to patients in England cancer drugs not recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the basis of cost-effectiveness, not yet appraised by NICE or which were being used outside market authorisations.
The effects of the CDF on population health are controversial: one estimate is that the CDF has caused five times … Read more
Nearly 14 years ago in summer school at University of California Santa Barbara, Professor Don Zimmerman provided my introduction to the analysis of institutional, in particular medical, interaction.
Those studies set the benchmark for my own research ambitions but the main obstacle I faced was getting access to data.
For all the right reasons, medical consultations data are challenging to collect. Where ethical approval is in place for reuse it is often restricted to the original research team. Sometimes retrospective approvals for reuse of existing data are possible but even then, consultations data that has been collected without reuse in mind is often of variable quality; the process of data collection and participant characteristics are not well-documented, recordings can be incomplete and they are often audio-only.
The idea for the Primary Care Consultations Archive was born with this … Read more