For 25 years, I have been a frustrated researcher. Like many, I came into the field of research to make a difference. But as the years passed, I realised that research had little influence on healthcare policy making or practice. I wanted to do something, so in 2009 I applied for a NIHR post-doctoral fellowship to skill up research teams to make a bigger impact. The feedback on my (unsuccessful) application was that researchers just had to publish in the BMJ and things would change (if only!).
Imagine my delight when a few short years later, the NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowship scheme was launched. Its aim was to create a “cadre of knowledge mobilisers”, proficient both in the practice and research of knowledge mobilisation (or ways of sharing knowledge). In 2014, I became one of them.
Most clinical trials are pragmatic in nature and aim to assess the effectiveness of a new treatment against ‘treatment as usual’. When interpreting trial results, researchers tend to focus primarily on what treatment participants in different trial arms received. This may be difficult in the usual care arm, as this arm is often poorly defined, whereas the intervention arm is often clearly defined prior to the trial starting. In addition, this focus is very narrow. Treatment is a process and patients’ experiences of accessing and receiving care could also influence their treatment outcomes, and thus the trial’s results.
A paper recently published in Trials highlights that differences do exist between the experiences of participants randomised to usual care and intervention arms. These differences relate not only to what treatment participants receive, but also how they access and engage with … Read more
I know this from working in both general practice and as a hospital doctor in A&E.
During the early stages of an illness it can be difficult for even the most experienced healthcare professionals to determine whether a patient has a minor self-limiting illness or is harbouring a more serious condition. In addition, growing problems such as antibiotic resistance and multimorbidity mean that sometimes even when a doctor makes a correct diagnosis, patients do not always get better with the first round of treatment and may require further medical help.
We cannot, and it is not clinically appropriate, to admit everyone to hospital to observe them until they feel 100% better.
That is why it is important that healthcare professionals provide patients with safety-netting advice. Safety-netting … Read more
With ninety percent of patient interaction with health services going through primary care, it’s not surprising that primary care clinicians and researchers try to figure out ways to improve primary care services. Interventions are many and varied, and result in important questions about their effectiveness. Do electronic consultations offer a good service to patients? If GPs introduce advice on healthy lifestyles into the consultation, does it make patients healthier? What about increasing the duration of GP appointments to ten minutes – does this improve outcomes for patients? Or ensuring that patients always see the same named doctor? Or painting the waiting room green?
Questions like these are normally answered by administration of a generic patient-reported questionnaire. By comparing the responses of groups of patients (say those with eight minute consultations and those with ten minute consultations), researchers can … Read more
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
‘Encourage more GP practices to teach medical students‘.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? That was the brief for me starting as GP Engagement Lead in September 2016. Teaching is something I’m passionate about and is one of the highlights of my week in practice. It’s always a good day at work when I’ve had students with me and I love to share my enthusiasm for teaching with other GPs.
However, encouraging GPs to take on new work, as exciting and rewarding as it is, is difficult at a time of unprecedented workload and pressure in general practice. Enter ‘Step up and Teach’ – a campaign we’re running to highlight the benefits to practices of teaching medical students. The question we want practices to ask themselves is ‘can we afford not to teach?’.
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
Domestic violence is a violation of human rights with damaging social, economic and health consequences. It is any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. That abuse can be psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial.
The “domestic” element refers to abuse between people aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. Men, women or transgender people in straight, gay or lesbian relationships can perpetrate or experience it. So does this mean domestic violence is gender neutral? Is gender irrelevant to prevention efforts and to responding to survivors’ needs? We do not think so.