Penicillin was discovered 90 years ago – and despite resistance, the future looks good for antibiotics

 

by Professor Alastair Hay
Professor of Primary Care
Centre for Academic Primary Care

When the NHS turned 70 this year, I was reminded of another anniversary which has had an enormous impact on healthcare over many years. Penicillin is 90 this year.

Discovered in September 1928 by Alexander Fleming, it was first used as a cure when George Paine treated eye infections with it in 1930. A method for mass production was devised by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain in 1940, and it was first mass produced in 1942, with half of that total supply used for one patient being treated for streptococcal septicaemia.

In 1944, 2.3m doses were produced in time for the Normandy landings of World War II. And it was then that the miracle of penicillin became clear. Soldiers who had previously died from septicaemia were surviving.

Expectations rose. If penicillin could cure septicaemia, what … Read more

Setting the priorities for advanced heart failure research

by Dr Rachel Johnson
Clinical Research Fellow
Centre for Academic Primary Care
@rjohnsonridd

 

This week sees the launch of the James Lind Alliance Advanced Heart Failure Priority Setting Partnership Survey to gather research ideas from those living or working with advanced heart failure.

The clinical academic’s view

When, alongside clinical academic colleagues, I began to think about setting up a process to establish the top research priorities for heart failure, I was intrigued by the thought that I had no idea what people living with heart failure would choose as their priorities.

As a doctor interested in heart disease, I have worked with many people who have heart failure. I feel I have a good sense of the medical aspects of the condition, and, to some extent, the patient experience. And yet, when I thought about what patients and their families might identify as the main problems that … Read more

Repeat prescriptions are expensive and time consuming – it’s time for an NHS rethink

 

Dr Rupert Payne
Centre for Academic Primary Care
@DrRupertPayne

 

 

Dr Céline Miani
University of Bielefeld
@celine_miani

 

Over a billion NHS prescription medicines are issued by pharmacists in England every year – at a cost of over £9 billion. Many of these are prescribed by GPs to manage long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

The current “repeat prescription” system allows patients to request a further supply of medicines without the inconvenience of another doctor’s appointment.

The UK Department of Health advises that the frequency of repeat prescriptions should “balance patient convenience with clinical appropriateness, cost-effectiveness and patient safety”.

However, it does not recommend a specific time period. As a result, local health service commissioners have developed their own guidance, with many encouraging GPs to issue short-term supplies of repeat medications, typically 28 days in length. This is supported by the UK’s Pharmaceutical Services Read more

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 establish … Read more

Why doctors need to improve the way we discuss assisted dying

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

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 … Read more

Multimorbidity could cause a healthcare crisis – here’s what we can do about it

by Professor Chris Salisbury
Centre for Academic Primary Care
@prof_tweet

 

Multimorbidity is one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare. In recent years, a succession of research studies have shown that people with multiple health problems are more likely to have a worse quality of life, worse mental health and reduced life expectancy. The more health problems someone has, the more drugs they are likely to be prescribed and the more frequently they are likely to consult a GP or be admitted to hospital.

You might think this is all rather self-evident – it’s hardly a surprise that sick people get ill, take medicines and go to doctors more often than healthy people.

So why has multimorbidity become so prominent in discussions about healthcare over the last decade?

There has been an explosion in the number of research papers published on the the topic, numerous editorials and discussion … Read more

World Health Day 2017 – ‘Depression: let’s talk’

By Dr David Kessler
Reader in Primary Care
Centre for Academic Mental Health &
Centre for Academic Primary Care

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Are some patients more equal than others? Looking back at the Cancer Drugs Fund

Padraig Dixonby Dr Padraig Dixon
Senior Research Associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care

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 … Read more

Why GPs need training about domestic violence and children

Eszter Szilassy2by Eszter Szilassy
Senior Research Associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care

While violence against men continues to fall in the UK, women affected by violence and domestic abuse are bearing the brunt of a hidden rise in violent crime. This rise coincides with the austerity-led cutting of domestic violence services.

Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) damages physical and mental health resulting in increased use of health services by survivors of abuse. The prevalence of DVA among women attending general practice is higher than in the wider population. Women experiencing DVA are more likely to be in contact with GPs than with any other professionals. Reduced investment in specialist domestic violence services further increases the demand for direct general practice responses to DVA. Although victims tend not to disclose spontaneously to their GP, they have an expectation, often unfulfilled, that doctors can be trusted with disclosure, and can offer them … Read more