Setting the priorities for advanced heart failure research

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

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. Continue reading

Autism not linked to eating fish during pregnancy – large new study

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Caroline Taylor, University of Bristol

Eating fish while you’re pregnant does not increase the chance that your child will be autistic or have autistic traits, our latest study shows. In fact, our study suggests that fish may be beneficial for the development of a healthy nervous system.

A possible link between mercury exposure and autism has been the subject of much debate over the years. In pregnancy, mercury travels in the mother’s blood through the placenta and into the foetus, where it acts as a toxin, affecting the development of the foetal nervous system. Continue reading

Finding a better way to identify children experiencing domestic violence

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Natalia Lewis, University of Bristol

Around one in five children in the UK have been exposed to domestic violence or abuse between their parents or caregivers. When adults are involved in an abusive relationship, their children bear the consequences. Continue reading

Food and drink options in NHS settings; new questionnaire prompts changes

 

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Dr Fiona Lithander, Senior Research Associate, NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre.

Fiona explains how a new questionnaire could be used to increase healthy food and drink options in hospital retail outlets

At the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Bristol Biomedical Research Centre we are interested in the role the NHS plays in promoting good nutrition and health in children. Recent reports have shown a quarter of children in the UK are overweight or obese; a worrying statistic in itself, and the problem doesn’t appear to be getting any better.

NICE guidelines say that retail outlets in hospitals such as shops, cafes, restaurants and vending machines should offer healthy food and drink options, and that these options should be prominently displayed. They also say that nutritional information about the foods on their menus should be available. These guidelines do not refer to foods served to patients, although patients may have access to foods and drinks for sale onsite.

At NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre we developed a new questionnaire to help NHS Trusts assess how healthy their food and drink options are. This differs from other questionnaires in that it allows Trusts to compare their findings with the NICE guidelines. Trusts can use this questionnaire to measure how healthy prepared foods for sale are, and can make changes accordingly. These changes may involve, replacing sugary drinks with sugar-free options such as water, and replacing chocolate bars with more healthy options such as unsalted nuts.

Using this questionnaire, we measured how healthy the foods and drinks were in two Trusts, and how closely they followed NICE guidelines. Our findings showed a lack of healthy food and drink options for sale in vending machines. Nutritional information on menus was minimal, and there was limited promotion and advertising of healthy foods and drinks. Since the findings were published, both of the Trusts have made improvements.

Our plan is to further develop the questionnaire in conjunction with the NICE guidelines, so that it can be used more widely in NHS Trusts and in local authority settings, such as leisure centres. Making it easier for parents to direct their children to healthier choices should be a central element of our healthcare system.

Disclaimer: This study was supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health.

This blog was originally published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

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

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Rupert Payne, University of Bristol and Céline Miani, University of Bielefeld

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. Continue reading

No single food or nutrient is to blame for obesity, so what is the right balance?

Dr Laura Johnson, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, discusses her new paper in which she assesses the impact of dietary patterns on obesity and how modelling may help influence change in both personal habits and public policy.

No single food or nutrient is to blame for obesity. There so many routes from diet to overeating and weight gain, and in real life foods and nutrients aren’t eaten on their own. So, it’s misleading to look at foods that way in research, it’s the overall balance of diet that matters. Continue reading

Management consultants don’t save the NHS money – new evidence

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The NHS is strapped for cash.
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Andrew Sturdy, University of Bristol

Few topics in the NHS have provoked as much controversy as the use of external management consultants. They provide advice on strategy, organisation and financial planning, and help implement new IT systems and other changes.

While some claim that this brings much needed improvements, critics question their value – particularly at a time when the NHS is strapped for cash. Even Patrick Carter, recently charged with reviewing NHS efficiency, admits that he has “a bugbear with employing management consultants”. Continue reading

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

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Richard Morris, University of Bristol

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. Continue reading

‘People like us just shouldn’t fall in love’: how British immigration rules are separating fathers from their families

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Melanie Griffiths, University of Bristol and Candice Morgan, University of Bristol

Couples are being subjected to painful separations, uncertainty about their future and financial hardship by the UK’s strict immigration rules, according to our new research.

Between 2014 and 2017, we followed nearly 30 couples where the man had irregular or insecure immigration status in the UK but his partner or children were citizens of Britain or the European Economic Area (EEA). Continue reading

Putting algae and seaweed on the menu could help save our seafood

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If we have to feed 9.8 billion people by 2050, food from the ocean will have to play a major role. Ending hunger and malnutrition while meeting the demand for more meat and fish as the world grows richer will require 60% more food by the middle of the century.

But around 90% of the world’s fish stocks are already seriously depleted. Pollution and increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere, which is making the oceans warmer and more acidic, are also a significant threat to marine life. Continue reading