As winter continues, so does the usual soul searching about the state of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Images of ambulances backing up outside emergency departments and patients lying on trolleys in corridors haunt politicians and the public alike.
Demand on the NHS, which is always high, increases over the coldest of seasons, when threats to health are greatest. Generally, more than 20,000 extra deaths occur from December to March than in any other four-month period in England and Wales. That number varies considerably, however – from 17,460 in 2013-4 to 43,850 in 2014-5 (which was not even a particularly cold winter). And there has been no evidence of a decreasing trend since the early 1990s, despite the national flu immunisation programme.
The percentage increase in deaths seen each winter in England and Wales … Read more
Assisted dying can be a divisive and polarising subject. But there is one aspect on which most people probably agree – the need to improve the conversations people have about death.
At the moment, there is uncertainty in the UK regarding what people – especially health professionals – can and cannot say when the topic of assisted dying comes up. Conversation can become especially stilted when it turns to patients obtaining the medical documentation required for an assisted death abroad.
The situation requires clarification. Currently, if a doctor in the UK writes a specific report to help with an assisted death abroad (three organisations in Switzerland accept UK citizens), the General Medical Council (GMC) may view this as a “fitness to practice” issue.
However, if a doctor provides copies of medical records, even with the knowledge that … Read more
The conference brings together researchers, practitioners and policy makers from all corners of the globe to discuss, debate and exchange knowledge regarding domestic violence and abuse (DVA).
For context, the IRIS+ project is a training and intervention programme to support clinicians (GPs and nurses) to identify, document and refer female and male victims and perpetrators of DVA, as well as their children, to our dedicated specialist support service.
Before presenting, we had concerns that our workshop might not attract an audience, partly because we thought our … Read more
Image credit: Doctor and patient – Government of Alberta. Creative Commons License 2.0 (Non-commercial No Derivatives). Source: Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/governmentofalberta/21221196734
In a systematic review published this month, we identified 153 communication skills training interventions for generalists in end of life care. In randomised controlled trials, training improved showing empathy and discussing emotions in simulated interactions (i.e. with actor patients) but evidence of effect on clinician behaviours during real patient interactions, and on patient-reported outcomes, was inconclusive.
The global increase in the proportion of older people and length of life means providing end of life care is now increasingly the responsibility of generalist as well as specialist palliative care providers. But many clinicians find communicating about end of life issues challenging: how do you best discuss imminent mortality, limited treatment options, what to … 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?’.
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