An appeal to GPs, Pharmacists and other healthcare staff

22 Jan

by Professor Aneez Esmail, Director of the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC


I have recently been involved in research that seeks to reduce the amount of drugs that elderly patients are given. We are increasingly aware of the problem of people taking multiple medications and the detrimental effect that this can have on patient’s quality of life and more importantly on the real threats to patient safety that can arise from overprescribing. What has surprised me is the lack of information that exists on prescribing in the elderly – for example, there is very little information from clinical trials to show the efficacy of statins, antihypertensives and treatments for diabetes for patients over the age of 75.

The purpose of this research is to develop a software tool, integrated with the clinical record, to help general practitioners make the decision as to which treatments have an evidence base and the important drug interactions that should sometimes make us question the decision to add another drug to a large number of drugs that many elderly people already take. It forces us to question many of the assumptions that underpin current clinical practice; for example, by looking at whether reducing drugs can improve patient outcomes.

There are other examples of important work that we are involved in – for example trying to develop mechanisms to support general practitioners in making the correct diagnosis. Engaging with us in research provides opportunities to help define the research questions, work at the cutting edge of scientific research and thought, and ultimately begin the process of changing clinical practice.

Most practices that get involved in research usually end up recruiting patients for trials that are testing existing or newly developing treatments. This is important. However working with early stage translational research is a qualitatively different undertaking.  Translational research might appeal to the inquisitive clinician who is always asking questions about ‘why’ certain things happen rather than ‘what’ actually happens.

So this is an appeal to all those inquisitive clinicians and healthcare professionals, working in practices where the day-to-day pressure of work can sometimes overwhelm us. Engaging with research can also impact on our day-to-day clinical work – for example I am already more aware of the problems in prescribing in the elderly and I believe that it has made me a better clinician. Those clinicians who are working with us on diagnostic error are beginning to understand a lot more about what can influence diagnoses. So this is relevant and directly related to patient care.

Most of our research is funded so that we can buy out clinical time and provide clinicians with dedicated time to get engaged with research. It’s interesting and challenging so please, get in touch with us if you want to get involved.

Current opportunities for professionals to get involved:

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