How gut feeling guides clinician treatment decisions and why it’s not always enough


by Sophie Turnbull
PhD Student
Centre for Academic Primary Care


Clinician intuition and gut feelings are often talked about in health care but are largely mysterious. Clinicians describe just knowing that there was something wrong with a patient but not exactly how they came to that conclusion.

In a recent study we aimed to unpick how clinicians form their gut feelings, how they use them to influence treatment decisions, and whether their gut feeling was good at predicting whether a child with infectious cough would get sicker in the 30 days after seeing them.

Using gut feeling to predict outcome in children with infectious cough

Infectious cough in children is the most common problem managed by health services internationally.  Although the majority of children get better on their own, a small proportion end up hospital with a serious illness. Clinicians do not always find it easy to … Read more

Why the annual winter health crisis could be solved in homes, not hospitals


by Professor Richard Morris
Professor in Medical Statistics
Centre for Academic Primary Care


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

Why doctors need to improve the way we discuss assisted dying

Paul Teed
PhD candidate
Centre for Academic Primary Care 
University of Bristol

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

How do we teach clinicians to talk about the end of life?

By Dr Lucy Selman
Research Fellow (Qualitative Research in Randomised Trials)
Centre for Academic Primary Care


Image credit: Doctor and patient – Government of Alberta. Creative Commons License 2.0 (Non-commercial No Derivatives). Source: Flickr:

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

Safety-netting advice: my experience as an Academic Foundation Programme doctor

by Dr Peter Edwards
Research Associate/Academic Foundation Year 2 doctor
Centre for Academic Primary Care

One in a Million logo





Patients can deteriorate rapidly.

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

Measuring outcomes in primary care

by Dr Mairead MurphyDr Mairead Murphy
Senior Research Associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care

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

Why GPs should teach

by Simon ThorntonSimon Thornton
GP Engagement Lead
Centre for Academic Primary Care

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?’.

Reasons to teach

We already know … Read more

Why gender can’t be ignored when dealing with domestic violence

by Gene Feder and Lucy Potter
Centre for Academic Primary Care

First published in The Conversation

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.

Globally, direct experience of being subjected to domestic violence is greater among women then among men. In the UK, 27% of women and 13% of men … Read more

What is the ‘3D approach’ for managing multiple long-term conditions?

by Dr Mei-See Man
Trial Manager
Centre for Academic Primary Care

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