Destabilising primary health care: digitalised remote consulting and post-COVID-19 patient care

 

 

by Sophie Park, Professor of Primary Care and Medical Education, Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, Yathavan Premadasan, BSc Medical Student, University College London and Chris Salisbury, Professor of Primary Health Care, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed primary care dramatically, with most consultations conducted remotely by telephone, video or online messaging. But is this a short-term adjustment or the future norm? In general practice, clinical care has been based on long term face-to-face contact, establishing trusting relationships through continuity of care, and using knowledge of patients’ personal circumstances and social context to provide holistic support. Now, these fundamental principles are challenged.

Matt Hancock (UK Health Secretary) has welcomed rapid changes towards digitalised clinical practice as an overdue development, stating that wherever possible, all future consultations should be conducted remotely. But is the … Read more

‘Not just on the surface’: Improving support for patients with skin problems

by Emma Le Roux, GP with a dermatology special interest. Formerly Senior Clinical Research Fellow (NIHR-in-Practice) at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

Skin problems are among the most common reasons patients to go to the doctor. As a GP, I often reflect on the patients I see, such as the 35-year-old man who suffers with psoriasis. Over 15 years he has struggled with managing his itchy skin symptoms but of more concern to him is his related low self-esteem. Because of the appearance of his skin he felt unable to take part in leisure activities, such as taking his son swimming. He lacked understanding of treatment options and was unaware of the condition’s associations with arthritis and cardiovascular disease. His experience reflects the evidence that skin problems are known to have a heavy physical and psychosocial burden.

Most patients with skin problems … Read more

Conducting research during COVID-19: a medical student’s perspective

 

 

by Kelly Cheng, Medical Student, University of Bristol

 

“Cancelled due to COVID-19” – a rare opportunity to practise lifesaving pre-hospital emergency medicine skills in the French Alps was abruptly transformed into another cancellation email, as with many other glorious plans for 2020. Before I knew it, hospital placements had also been suspended until further notice. Instead, I found myself back home, huddled before my laptop, about to embark on a 6-week long student choice project working with highly-experienced academics for the first time – over Zoom, of course.

In this post, I share my experience as a third year medical student undertaking a research project alongside Dr Lorna Duncan from the Centre of Academic Primary Care (CAPC), and explore the methods we used to successfully gather primary data from all regions of England amid a national lockdown. Ironically, the chance to carry out a project focused on … Read more

Why does the type of moisturiser matter to a child with eczema? A research nurse’s perspective

 

 

By Sue Davies-Jones, Research Nurse, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Nottingham University

I have worked as a research nurse at the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology for 13 years, working on various dermatology research projects. The Best Emollients for Eczema (BEE) study aims to answer the important question of whether some types of emollient (moisturisers) are better than others in the treatment of childhood eczema.

In an ideal world, patients would be able to sample different emollients before deciding which one they preferred, but this is not usually practical. The BEE Trial has been designed to help doctors and patients to decide which types of emollient are best to try first.

GPs are under pressure to prescribe on cost, but we don’t know whether a more watery or cheaper moisturiser is as good as a thicker or more expensive one. Helping families find the “right” moisturiser … Read more

Care homes have long been neglected – the pandemic has shown us how bad things are

 

 

by Dr Lucy Pocock, GP Career Progression Fellow, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

Before COVID-19, there were around 10,000 deaths in care homes in England and Wales every month. Then, between March 27 and April 24 2020, the number more than doubled to 23,113.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) later reported 17,422 deaths of care home residents from COVID-19 between the end of March and June 5, accounting for 47% of the total number of deaths caused by the virus.

So it is unsurprising that the pandemic has led to much greater interest in what happens inside care homes. As well as the significant increase in the number of residents dying, concerns have been raised about a lack of access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), the discharge of coronavirus-positive patients from hospital to care homes, rationalisation of the health … Read more

Phone, video and online consultations: will Covid-19 change general practice for ever?

 

 

 

by Chris Salisbury, Mairead Murphy and Polly Duncan, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, general practices have rapidly shifted to offering consultations remotely by telephone, video or online messaging rather than face-to-face. Many general practices are considering whether they should continue these new ways of working into the future and some commentators are arguing that general practice will be changed forever. Remote consultations could be more convenient for patients and reduce workload pressures on general practices.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic we wrote a paper which modelled how an increasing use of online, video and telephone consultations would affect GPs’ workload. Our conclusion was that a reduction in workload should not be assumed, and remote consulting could instead lead to an increase in GP workload over time. It all depends on how remote consultations are used.

The paper … Read more

Do web-based self-care interventions reduce health inequalities for people with chronic conditions?

 

 

by Dr Sophie Turnbull, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

Digital interventions have become increasingly popular due to their potential to increase access to healthcare for people with chronic conditions and reduce the burden on a stretched healthcare system.

This has been amplified during the COVID-19 crisis, where much face-to-face support has been reduced or is no longer available. However, there are concerns that digital health provision may exacerbate existing health inequalities.

Chronic or long-term conditions, such as diabetes, are estimated to account for 87% of deaths and have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Even in high-income countries, people with lower socioeconomic status experience chronic illness more commonly and with greater severity than average for the rest of the population.

We also know that people with existing health conditions, in low paid or insecure work and … Read more

Why new guidance on domestic abuse for GPs is vital during COVID-19

 

 

by Dr Eszter Szilassy, Research Fellow, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

GPs and other primary health care professionals play a vital role in addressing domestic violence and abuse (DVA). This is especially true during the current coronavirus pandemic, when individuals and families are isolated from potential sources of help and support.

Home during lockdown may not be a safe place for those affected. In England, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, has seen a 50 per cent increase in calls compared to pre-COVID-19, along with a 400 per cent increase in web traffic.

We know that the pandemic is having a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of people affected by DVA and their children. Extensive periods of self-isolation and social distancing compounded by increasing uncertainty over jobs and financial security for families may be a dangerous and profoundly … Read more

Coronavirus: how accurate are coronavirus tests?

by Dr Jessica Watson, GP and NIHR Doctoral Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol and Dr Penny Whiting, Associate Professor in Clinical Epidemiology, NIHR ARC West and University of Bristol

Coronavirus testing has been the subject of huge interest, frustration and confusion. The UK has come under worldwide criticism for its lack of mass testing, despite the director general of WHO encouraging countries to “test, test, test”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the UK now aims to test 100,000 people a dayfor COVID-19 by the end of April.

There are two main types of COVID-19 tests. Swab tests, which usually take a sample from the throat or nose, to detect viral RNA. These determine if you currently have COVID-19. Blood tests, which detect antibodies, can determine if you have had COVID-19, and are therefore immune.

No test … Read more

A GP reads ‘The Plague’ during the COVID-19 pandemic

Prof Gene Feder

 

 

by Gene Feder, GP and Professor of Primary Care, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

The Plague, a novel by Albert Camus, published in 1947, tells the story of Oran, a city struck by bubonic plague. It was an extended metaphor for living under fascism and the way society and individuals behave under occupation.

I found an English translation at the back of a book shelf, having first read it as a teenager over half a century ago. On the title page there is a stamp: ‘Rainbow Library Salzburg THIS BOOK IS A [sic] PROPERTY OF THE UNITED STATES’. My father – working with Holocaust* survivors in Germany and Austria – must have forgotten to return it.

In 2020, it turns out that the book – partially – exemplifies our response to the pandemic du jour: COVID-19.

Everybody knows that pestilences have

Read more