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A collaboration of nine member departments of the NIHR School of Primary Care Research has been awarded £1.8 million to undertake, develop the methods, and build capacity in systematic reviews covering priority areas in primary care.

The results of these reviews have the potential for significant impact on patient care within the NHS and will inform future research and the design of services.
- Professor Carl Heneghan, University of Oxford

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research the Evidence Synthesis Working Group (ESWG)  aims to address questions that matter to primary care by undertaking a range of systematic reviews in priority areas for the NHS.  

This ambitious research program aims to deliver twenty high-quality reviews in urgent care interface; end-of-life care and bereavement; assessment of new drugs and technologies in chronic disease patients using unpublished data sources; and health service redesign in primary care.

“The NHS, and particularly general practice, face many challenges in delivering effective, compassionate and equitable care to a population that is growing older and living longer. Research that can inform better decisions at individual patient and health care policy levels is often not applied by doctors and commissioners of services. This collaboration between the leading English departments of primary care will tackle this disconnect by identifying and synthesising key research findings and serve them up in a useable form.” said Gene Feder, GP and Professor of Primary Health Care in the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol.

A combination of clinicians, researchers, librarians, statisticians, patients, and members of the public will collectively deliver these goals.

The group will be directed by Professor Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and involves several members of the department across different research groups. Professor Heneghan said: “The results of these reviews have the potential for significant impact on patient care within the NHS and will inform future research and the design of services.”

In addition, the ESWG will support capacity development by providing training across the school in evidence synthesis, and the more complex methods needed for evidence synthesis.

Sophie Park, GP and Associate Professor in Primary Care at UCL’s department of Primary Care and Population Health, and newly appointed co-chair of the ESWG training group said, "My participation in the ESWG has facilitated dedicating a substantial part of my academic working week to developing my expertise, experience and colleague network in evidence synthesis. I am also excited at the opportunities this collaboration presents for sharing and utilising knowledge about evidence synthesis across the School and encouraging trainees to enjoy and engage in this field of research."

Dr Stephen Barclay, University Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Palliative Care and General Practitioner at the University of Cambridge will be leading on one of the programme’s themes 'Palliative and End of Life Care and the Management of Bereavement' along with Dr Ian Wellwood, Senior Research Associate at the Primary Care Unit of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health.

Dr Barclay said; “These wide-ranging reviews will provide a strong foundation based on the evidence in our field and help identify key areas for future primary care research that will make a difference to our patients and their families”.

Dr Wellwood said; “This multidisciplinary programme of reviews has brought the diverse members of the School together to tackle these topics and to learn from each other. There is a real spirit of collaboration.”

“We hope that the funding and structures of the Evidence Synthesis programme will allow librarians across the School to compare practice and develop the ways in which we can work collaboratively. It’s a real chance to bring methods to the next level” said Isla Kuhn, Medical Librarian at the Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine.

The initiative builds on the work of the NIHR SPCR, which has a remit to increase the evidence base for primary care practice, and build capacity, through high-quality research and strategic leadership.


For more information and to discuss collaborative opportunities contact Carl Heneghan

For more information on ESWG training theme, then please contact Sophie Park.


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