The doctor will Skype you now: the value of telehealth in managing long-term conditions

by Dr Padraig Dixon
Senior Research Associate in Health Economics
Centre for Academic Primary Care

People are increasingly living with long-term health conditions. Management of these conditions is expensive, and their increased prevalence challenges health system sustainability and current service models. Can alternative models of care meet the needs of patients with long-term conditions at an acceptable cost?

One growing area of healthcare that could serve as a replacement or adjunct to traditional care models is telehealth, which is the remote provision of healthcare by a variety of communication tools. Telehealth advocates argue that the wider use of technology and a greater reliance on self-management in supporting patients with long-term conditions may produce the same or better health outcomes, but at a lower cost, than traditional care modalities. Is this optimism justified, and might telehealth be good value for the NHS?

Recent work, funded by the National Institute for Health 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

How do we support GPs providing end of life care?

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

GPs are vital to the delivery of end of life care. They coordinate care, provide generalist palliative care, help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, and, in England, commission local health and social care services. Crucially, they help shift care from hospitals to the community, which is where most people would prefer to die.

But providing good care at the end of life is not always straightforward. There’s evidence that GPs can find it challenging, and that the quality of end of life care by GPs can be problematic. The Royal College of General Practitioners and the House of Commons Health Committee therefore recognise the urgent need for evidence-based education in end of life care for GPs. However, the evidence base for GP training in end of life care is unclear, and no rigorous evaluations … 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

Who do GPs go to when they need help?

johanna-spiersBy Johanna Spiers
Research associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care

GPs often say they make the worst patients, but who do they turn to when they need help? That’s what I aim to find out on a new research project about GPs with mental health issues.

My new job is firmly at the centre of the zeitgeist. GPs are all over the news on a daily basis. Doctors are judged by journalists and picked apart by politicians for running unsafe surgeries, for closing their doors to new patients, and for long waiting lists. If you read (and believe) certain sectors of the UK press, you might be forgiven for thinking that GPs have a lot to answer for.

The reality is, of course, way more complex than the Daily Fail might have us believe. Yes, GPs are retiring early. Yes, many practices are unable to add new names … Read more

Domestic violence and abuse: how should doctors and nurses respond?

Gene FederBy Gene Feder
GP and Professor of Primary Care
Centre for Academic Primary Care

Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is a violation of human rights with long-term health consequences, from chronic pain to mental ill-health. It is a global public health challenge, requiring political and educational intervention to drive prevention, as well as a robust criminal justice response. But what is required from front line doctors and nurses, beyond the requirement to respond with clinical competence and compassion to survivors of DVA presenting with, for example, acute injuries, pelvic pain or PTSD? What are the arguments and the evidence for an extended role for clinicians, as articulated in the NICE guidelines on DVA and the WHO guidelines on intimate partner and sexual violence, requiring specific training on DVA and the resources for referral of patients experiencing DVA to specialist DVA services?

A crucial argument and evidence source, as we … Read more

Bridging the gap between research and commissioning

Nadya+AnscombeBy Nadya Anscombe
Communications officer
Centre for Academic Primary Care

“Bridging the gap” – that was the name of the workshop I attended at a recent event organised by the Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative (APCRC).

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

Investment in GP reception staff and simplified systems could bring down A&E attendance

profile-Emer-Brangan-900x900-c-defaultBy Emer Brangan
Research Associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care
and NIHR CLAHRC West

A&E departments in England have faced considerable pressure for several years, with high profile missed performance targets at several major A&E units last winter receiving widespread media coverage.

So how can GP practices help?

Our research suggests that investment in primary care reception staff, simplifying appointment systems and addressing patient perceptions of access could make a difference.

Our mixed methods study in England, funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research, is bringing together findings from a systematic review of the literature, multivariate analysis of routine data nationally, and six qualitative case studies in primary care practices.  Drawing on the qualitative case studies we produced an animation (see below) of three short stories about access to primary care, told from a patient, primary care receptionist, and GP perspective.

We found that practices responding to … Read more

Dying in the UK? Lucky you.

Lesley Wye photoBy Lesley Wye
Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Academic Primary Care

My father is dying. This is pretty bad. What’s worse is that he’s dying in the US.

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently published a report that ranked the UK as the best place to die in the world, with the US ranking 9th, and I’m inclined to agree.

With advanced prostate cancer, a tumour in his liver 14 cm long, another pushing in his bladder and a recent bout of pneumonia, we’ve been told that my father has “weeks” to live.

He’s currently in a ‘skilled nursing facility’ on the premises of a retirement community. Medicare, a US federal government programme, is paying for his care, but only while he continues to have physiotherapy twice a day. It’s rather heart-breaking watching my father struggle to stand for more than 30 seconds and then collapse exhausted in his bed. But … Read more

Greater GP access: a panacea for rising A&E use?

Fiona MacKichanBy Fiona MacKichan
Lecturer in Medical Sociology
Centre for Academic Primary Care

GP access has become a focus of governmental response to rising A&E attendance. Outlining a ‘new deal for general practice’ on 19th June Jeremy Hunt cited safeguarding hospital capacity as a key driver for seven-day primary care access.

The logic is that a significant proportion of A&E visits are for problems that could be managed in primary care and lack of available GP appointments drives people to A&E.

Can greater GP access reduce A&E use? The answer seems to be probably, some of the time and in certain contexts. A recent systematic review by our team found an association between better primary care access and reduced A&E attendance in US and Canadian studies, but no clear association in European studies.

Using patient-reported data from the GP Patient Survey, Tom Cowling and colleagues found that a significant … Read more