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
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
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
Anybody who has worked on a systematic review will know you spend a lot of time thinking about the type of research papers to include in your review and those you will exclude. Tightly defined inclusion criteria, as well as critical appraisal, an explicit synthesis stage and measures to reduce reviewer bias (such as inter-rater checks), are what distinguish systematic from traditional reviews (a point usefully made by Mark Petticrew more than a decade ago, when he sought – among other things – to debunk the notion that systematic reviews are simply larger versions of traditional reviews).
Over many years teaching research methods, I’ve noticed students often regard this early stage of the review process as troublesome. It’s often approached with an uncertainty that, if not properly resolved, can render the review unwieldy. Or its significance might be underestimated; … Read more
The gap that apparently needed to be bridged is the gap between what someone called the “ivory towers of academia and the swampy lowlands of commissioning”.
I was sceptical – is there really a gap? Surely healthcare researchers and NHS commissioners are all working in the same sector; we all want to improve things; and we all want to make a difference to our population’s health and well-being. Surely the “gap” can’t be as big as some people make it out to be?
In theory, academia investigates the problems and issues of the sector, provides evidence for things that work and things that don’t; commissioners use this information to make decisions about what services … Read more