Tag Archives: healthcare

Overloaded A&Es – Have we got this all wrong? Dr Brad Keogh

Dr Brad Keogh

Accident and Emergency wait times seem to be constantly in the news. Less commonly but equally importantly are headlines that waiting lists for elective operations and procedures are on the rise. Although these topics hit our headlines regularly there is actually very little evidence and understanding behind the reasons for these changes in NHS services, and how the NHS can take positive action to cope with these issues.

From what we understand a lot of the currently held beliefs around the causes for pressure on NHS services come from very basic, non peer-reviewed, and potentially flawed analyses. It does not need too much explaining that making decisions based on these might be a bad idea.

Continue reading Overloaded A&Es – Have we got this all wrong? Dr Brad Keogh


Let’s learn about Frailty: a blog series on training for healthcare staff in this complex field. By Alex Recio-Saucedo and Melinda Taylor

This is the first of a series of blogs drawing on a study of training for those working in frailty care, with additional reflections from other work.

What is frailty?

Before looking at training in frailty care, it would be helpful to understand something about what frailty is. Descriptions of frailty will almost always refer to the complexity of the condition. But what makes frailty different to other conditions that could be described as complex? We might think perhaps of multiple sclerosis, in which the patient may experience a range of clinical conditions and in which physical, psychological and social factors need to be taken into account. The same can be said for patients diagnosed as frail. Well, in a recent study, our participants considered that the complexity of frailty; how two patients could have such a wide disparity of signs, symptoms and needs; its evolving nature; its acute susceptibility to interventions or to the lack of them, and the high number of professions, sectors and organisations necessary to carrying out effective frailty care, were sufficient reasons for it to stand apart.

This series of blogs draws largely upon an evaluation of the training elements of four very different initiatives to develop frailty care pathways. Two significant themes stood out in this study. Firstly, the high level of staff commitment to looking for ways of enhancing the care provided to patients diagnosed as frail. Secondly, their agreement on the extremely broad and nebulous nature of the concept of frailty. While the various tools and checklists available were helpful in identifying frail patients, all agreed that it was difficult to find a comprehensive definition of frailty that conveyed its real meaning; one patient diagnosed as frail could present quite differently to another. The term could concern age, a single clinical condition or comorbidities, and a range of individual circumstances. As one of the study participants commented:

Not everybody who is elderly is diagnosed with frailty and not everybody who is living with frailty is elderly. The problem is that frailty is not a fixed population and it’s not synonymous with age, so it’s a very variable thing, so people can move from one (level of) frailty to another.’

Others noted the wide range of clinical conditions that could be encountered under the umbrella of frailty, with one sometimes feeling ‘overwhelmed’ with all that was to be learned and taken into account when caring for these patients.

In a further discussion, participants commented that the level of complexity was only revealed when actually working with frail patients; regardless of any formal training or self-directed study carried out beforehand, appreciating the complexities could only be appreciated by active involvement in providing care:‘…you’ve got to live it a little bit to understand it.’ The health care professionals felt that they each interpreted frailty in their own individual ways and that it was necessary to understand how others viewed it and the skills and services each profession contributed in order to develop a more meaningful understanding and to enhance the care they provided.

To add to the complexity, there is the issue of the stigma associated with the term frailty. Health care professionals, of course, need a name, a diagnosis, to know what is being dealt with and to develop a care plan. But patients and others, including healthcare professionals themselves, can associate ‘frailty’ with age, infirmity and loss of mental acuity, and patients can find it difficult to come to terms with being classified as such.


One patient fought hard against being labelled ‘disabled’, even though he was wheelchair dependent, used a Disability Parking Permit and needed assistance with all personal care and daily living. He preferred to be referred to by his name or as a person with Parkinson’s disease. When later hearing himself referred to as frail, he immediately retorted ‘I’m not frail I’m disabled.’

These are just a handful of the frailty issues that participants discussed and it is interesting to note that they rarely mentioned any particular clinical conditions involved in frailty or offered a definition. Their concerns were focused on addressing complexity rather than specific clinical conditions. Yes, the clinical conditions were important, but they were clearly being viewed within the bigger picture of a system or process of frailty, rather than a discrete event in a patient’s clinical life.

Looking back to our initial question, ‘What is frailty?’, these blogs do not aim to provide the answer but present some of the components of frailty, its complexity and multi-faceted nature, defying comprehensive definition, that were important to those taking part in our study. These elements had a significant impact on how they perceived the training they received for their roles within the new initiatives and their future training requirements.

This was the central focus of our evaluation and, having set the scene for the context of the study, our next blog will provide a brief overview of the initiatives and reflect upon our findings relating to the various approaches to training, preferred methods and why they were thought to be appropriate for training within the speciality of frailty.

Why might nurses miss people’s ‘danger signs’ at night? – Dr Jo Hope

We know that nurses miss or delay taking patients’ vital signs (such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure) at night. Until now, no one knew why.

The NHS expects hospitals to use ‘Early Warning Scores’ to measure how ill someone is. These are based on the observation of ‘vital signs’ – measurements of things like pulse, temperature, blood pressure and breathing speed. The higher the score, the more often someone’s vital signs should be checked. This is so staff can spot the early danger signs of someone becoming very unwell, in time to help them.


Your local hospital will probably have an ‘early warning protocol’ that says how often people should be checked according to their early warning score. At higher levels observations will need to be done in the middle of the night. Despite this, we know that nurses are much less likely to do the observations that are expected to be done at night.

Continue reading Why might nurses miss people’s ‘danger signs’ at night? – Dr Jo Hope

Give me more: Why Insulin pumps aren’t just about what the doctor tells you – Claire Reidy

More and more of us are looking online for information to support our health (see Chris Allen’s work on support in Online Communities). In my research, I have found that the ability to get hold of that information and support, which is personal to you, can make a huge difference to how well you are.

I’m focusing on insulin pumps, which are an alternative means to deliver insulin to people with diabetes – compared to the more traditional multiple daily injections.

Insulin pumps have been developed to help people with Type 1 diabetes manage the condition better; both in terms of their quality of life and by more closely resembling a fully-functioning pancreas.

However, introducing a new health technology to an already difficult to manage condition is not necessarily simple, or easy.

Continue reading Give me more: Why Insulin pumps aren’t just about what the doctor tells you – Claire Reidy

How to hold it together in times of crisis. Nursing calling – Dr Mari Carmen Portillo Associate Professor University of Southampton

Mari Carmen Portillo_NOV15Let me tell you a secret… I am proud of being a nurse but when I was 18 I wasn´t that sure. Finally, advised by friends and family I ended up starting the nursing degree at an excellent and powerful University in Spain…  so that was a fair trade for me… Ok… I will do nursing!

Like many other nurse students, at that time I faced several fundamental crises and I even thought of quitting nursing because I had never thought of myself as a nurse and sometimes others’ pain and disgrace gave me the chills.

Continue reading How to hold it together in times of crisis. Nursing calling – Dr Mari Carmen Portillo Associate Professor University of Southampton

Should Wessex implement ReSPECT process? – The NIHR CLAHRC Wessex hosted event May 11, 2017

The event in Southampton attracted organisations* from across the Wessex region and beyond and a wide range of people including the public, paramedics, nursing staff, clinicians, managers and researchers.

Many stakeholders were represented bringing together 44 delegates, all there to examine and reflect on whether the ReSPECT approach to decision making for emergency care should be adopted.

Continue reading Should Wessex implement ReSPECT process? – The NIHR CLAHRC Wessex hosted event May 11, 2017

Making the patient central: Mark Stafford-Watson Public Contributor and PPI Champion

Article by Martin Simpson-Scott, PPI Coordinator NIHR CLAHRC Wessex
Mark Stafford-Watson

Mark Stafford-Watson is one of our NIHR CLAHRC Wessex public contributors. He’s also ‘PPI Champion’ for our Theme 1 research team (Integrated Respiratory Care) – of particular personal relevance to Mark, as he has a long-term respiratory condition.

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Breathe in the knowledge -by Lindsay Welch

lindsay-welchLindsay Welch is the Integrated COPD Team Lead; Solent NHS Trust and UHS NHS Foundation Trust

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a preventable disease and is one of the world’s biggest killers – it causes a narrowing of the breathing tubes and air sacs in our chest and lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen we can get into our bodies. There are several causes, air pollution and exposure to dust, but the main culprit is smoking. It is estimated that over three million people with COPD in the UK but only a quarter of those are diagnosed

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What’s at stake with Kidneys – Dr Simon Fraser

sf1z07_jpg_sia_jpg_fit_to_width_inlineDoctor Simon Fraser is part of a team conducting the Hampshire Acute Kidney Injury study which is part of the Public Health and Primary Care theme of NIHR CLAHRC Wessex. He writes:

Kidneys are incredibly important to the human body. Among other things, they deal with fluids that we drink and help to regulate important functions like blood pressure.

Continue reading What’s at stake with Kidneys – Dr Simon Fraser

The power of parity – why I love being a researcher – Sandra Walker

I’ve been a clinician in mental health for many (many) years I have heard tales of woe and distress. They have often been so devastating, and at the same time, inspirational as one hears about the efforts people make to overcome the most extreme situations. I have always felt a sense of privilege at being allowed into these stories and as a researcher this privilege feels somehow even more intense.

Continue reading The power of parity – why I love being a researcher – Sandra Walker