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Right evidence, better decisions
We are putting good research evidence at the heart of decision making in the NHS, public health and social care.
Our team
The NIHR DC is a collaboration between the Wessex Institute and Bazian. We are a small team of health specialists, writers and experts on engagement.
What are NIHR Signals?
NIHR Signals feature the latest important research from the NIHR and other health research organisations.
What makes an NIHR Signal?
This infographic reveals the process behind making an NIHR Signal from start to finish.
Email bulletins
If you would like to receive regular updates about new NIHR Signals, Highlights and Themed Reviews via email, join our mailing list.
Upcoming work
Our plans for future highlights and themed reviews.
Highlights
 
My Signals - General Practice
We asked three GPs to tell us which NIHR Signals have most interested them and to explain why they feel the findings are worth sharing.
What can GPs do with Signals?
How can GP's use NIHR Signals to support evidence based practice and improve patient care?
Childhood Eczema
This Highlight presents findings from NIHR studies looking at a range of treatments for childhood eczema.
Evidence at a glance
The NIHR has funded a variety of projects looking at the treatment of childhood eczema.
How NIHR research fits with NICE Guidance
How does NIHR research on childhood eczema fit with current NICE guidelines?
Where can I get advice and how can I get involved?
Sources of advice and guidance for families living with childhood eczema.
An in-depth look at the research
NIHR research evidence on treatments for childhood eczema.
About the evidence and context
Resources of NIHR research on childhood eczema
My Signals - Public health
Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health at Doncaster Council, explains the role of research evidence in public health, and highlights NIHR Signals of particular interest.
What can public health practitioners do with Signals?
What can public health practitioners do with NIHR Signals? Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health at Doncaster Council, shares some ideas.
My Signals - Patients
Four patients tell us why research featured in NIHR Signals is important to them.
What can patients do with Signals?
Public contributors share their ideas on how patients might make use of NIHR Signals
OCD
NIHR research into obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) shows promise for using self-help materials combined with modest levels of support .
Evidence at a glance
The findings boiled down, alongside practical questions to consider.
Access to treatment and help
People have a choice of routes when first seeking help for OCD. In England, mental health services are organised as ‘stepped’ care.
What support is available?
Charities and support groups can offer advice, information and help for people with OCD.
Which treatments work best
NIHR research has examined medical and psychological treatments for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
About the research
 
Patient experience of primary care
The GP patient survey provides detailed data for each practice. NIHR research took a closer look at this data and its use.
Evidence at a glance
The English GP Patient Survey is the single biggest and most reliable source of information for practices about how patients view their experience. But practices vary in how, and how much, they use the survey data to address patient perceptions.
The survey and the data it generates
The GP patient survey has been run each year since 2007. It provides the English NHS with a consistent and comprehensive set of data about patients’ experience of using their GP services.
What do patients really think?
One element of the IMPROVE study compared patient responses on the questionnaire with their actual experience of a consultation with a GP.
Patients’ perception of care varies
The IMPROVE team carried out detailed analysis on 2009 GP Patient Survey data to examine the variations between patients in different ethnic groups. This showed that certain patient groups reported more negative experiences of care than all respondents.
Using survey data to improve patient experience
While the GP Patient Survey data for any given practice is used a part of its CQC inspection record there is no other standard requirement for practices to review that data or act upon them. As a result there are wide variations in the use of the data and the value that can be derived from them.
About the research
This Highlight draws on four journal publications derived from the findings of the following NIHR research study: IMPROVE - Improving patient experience in Primary Care: a multi-method programme of research on the measurement and improvement of patient experience.
Options for depression
The NIHR has funded important research on different ways of managing care and treating people with depression
Evidence at a glance
A number of recent NIHR studies have provided useful new evidence on collaborative care and behavioural activation for depression
What is collaborative care and could it work in the NHS?
Collaborative care is a way of managing care and treatment for patients with chronic conditions. It has the potential to offer a more co-ordinated form of care, as well as the opportunity for case managers to provide simple psychological support.
Who might benefit from collaborative care?
At the moment, NICE recommend collaborative care only for people who have both depression and a chronic physical condition. But evidence suggests that collaborative care could be effective for people with depression alone.
Behavioural activation – a simple therapy that could make a difference in depression
Behavioural activation (BA) is a therapy that encourages patients with depression to approach activities they may have been avoiding. With a therapist, patients define goals and ‘activity schedules’.
About the research
This Highlight is based on findings from five NIHR-funded studies. We selected these studies because they are recent, high quality and directly relevant to the topic of this Highlight.
Pandemic flu
Every few years a strain of flu emerges to which people have little immunity. It can spread quickly and cause a serious pandemic. This highlight discusses two influential projects funded by the NIHR during the last pandemic in 2009.
Evidence at a glance
The World Health Organisation defines a flu pandemic as occurring when a new flu virus emerges and spreads around the world and most people do not have immunity.
How did vaccines help in the pandemic?
NIHR studies showed that new vaccines, developed for the specific pandemic flu strain, were effective in protecting people.
How does pandemic flu affect pregnant women and their babies?
Before the 2009 pandemic, it was already known that pregnant women are more susceptible to the complications of flu, such as pneumonia. NIHR research also showed that if women caught flu during the pandemic, their babies were at greater risk of being born prematurely or even stillborn.
What lessons were learned for future research in a pandemic?
As with any condition, research is needed to identify the best treatment and management of flu. The results can be used with routine surveillance data to improve the outcomes for individuals and the population as a whole.
About the research
This Highlight draws on the following NIHR funded research ...
Alternatives to open surgery
In the UK over ten million people are living with musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis and injuries. Evidence is now increasing on promising alternatives to open surgery, such as less invasive surgery, using slings or special types of plaster cast, and physiotherapy.
Evidence at a glance and key questions
Recent NIHR studies are providing useful new evidence on alternatives to open surgery for musculoskeletal conditions. This Highlight considers some of the key points arising from the studies.
Which treatments work best?
Three recent large NIHR trials have findings that can apply to many patients. These findings have helped healthcare professionals and patients to make decisions when discussing the most suitable treatment options.
What do the research findings mean for patients?
How individual patients and healthcare professionals decide on the best treatment option for musculoskeletal conditions.
What are the challenges and where next?
What are the challenges of researching surgery and where is research heading next in this developing field?
About the research
This Highlight draws on the findings of the following ...
Supporting carers of people with dementia
Unpaid carers provide much of the day to day care for people with Dementia. This Highlight looks at how best to support them.
Evidence at a glance
There is some evidence that when carers are well supported, they provide better care to the person they care for and report better outcomes themselves. But carers may not seek the support they need.
Improving coping skill for carers
The need for effective interventions to support carers in their challenging role is well recognised. But there is little reliable evidence on the effectiveness of different kinds of support.
Understanding the hidden needs of carers
Around 90% of people with dementia exhibit some form of challenging behaviour, including states of agitation and aggression. This is one of the most challenging aspects of care. As well as causing distress to carers, it can lead to inappropriate medication or hospital admission.
What other health problems do people with dementia have and how well are these managed?
It is known that people with dementia often have other health issues, such as diabetes. Dementia is also associated with cardiovascular risk factors, like hypertension. These different conditions can interact in complex ways and the presence of dementia will affect the ability of individual to manage other diseases.
How big is the issue of incontinence and what can be done about it?
Problems with continence are often cited as one of the worst aspects of caring and can lead to people with dementia being admitted to care home or hospital. However, we do not know very much about how common it is or how carers cope.
Can exercise help carers and people with dementia?
An NIHR study started with a literature review to assess the evidence on exercise. It found limited, but promising, evidence to support the use of exercise to address the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.
What support do carers value most to prevent and manage crises?
An online survey of health professionals and carers was carried out to understand different perspectives on the causes of dementia crisis and the most helpful kinds of support.
Do case managers help support people with dementia at home?
An NIHR programme reviewed published evidence on case management approaches. The review showed some evidence that case management led to better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers - but the picture was mixed.
About the research
This Highlight is based on five NIHR ...
Cognitive therapies for depression
Important new NIHR research sheds light on when, and for whom, cognitive therapies might work in the treatment of depression.
Evidence at a glance
Three recent NIHR studies have provided useful new evidence on particular aspects of talking therapies for depression.
Is computerised CBT effective for mild to moderate depression?
Computerised or online CBT is offered by a number of providers, and involves completing a series of modules usually from a home computer with varying degrees of support but usually minimal or no direct contact with a therapist.
What treatments help for depression that hasn’t responded to medication?
An NIHR study has found that individual, face to face cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) used alongside anti-depressant medication, was effective for people with depression who had not responded to treatment with antidepressants alone.
Which treatments might help avoid depression relapse?
More than half of people who experience depression once will go on to have at least one more episode. For people who have experienced several periods of depression, recurrence rates can be as high as 80%, even if an individual episode was treated successfully.
About the research
This Highlight is based on findings from the following four NIHR-funded studies. We selected these studies because they are relatively recent, high quality and fall within the specific area of cognitive therapies for depression.
Obesity in men
NIHR research examines what motivates men to join weight-loss programmes and what factors make them successful.
What motivates men to lose weight?
A review of two large NHS weight-loss programmes found that only around 10% of referrals were men. But when men do engage with a weight-loss programme, they do well, with lower drop-out rates than women, and some evidence they may lose more weight than women.
Components of a successful weight-loss programme for men
Although men are more likely than women to be overweight or obese, they are less likely to seek help or join a weight-loss programme. If men do join a weight-loss programme, the evidence suggests there are certain factors which are more likely to make the programme successful.
About the evidence and context
There is limited evidence from the UK on the most effective weight-loss approaches for men. Those that exist mainly reflect the experience of white, middle class, middle aged men, and there is a lack of longer term data.
Themed Reviews
 
Advancing Care
Advancing Care provides an overview of recent NIHR research on improving the health and care of care home residents. It highlights current research taking place now and explores new approaches being developed in this important area.
Roads to recovery
Stroke services have been transformed in the last twenty years and NIHR research has played an important part in this. Roads to Recovery should help those making decisions about stroke systems and services to deliver better care.
Better beginnings
A healthy pregnancy helps a child to get the best possible start in life. Better Beginnings – Health for Pregnancy covers NIHR research into health and wellbeing before, during and soon after pregnancy.
On the level
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition and big public health challenge. This themed review features over 50 studies that follow the patient pathway, from prevention through to management of the disease.
Care at the Scene
Care at the Scene brings together 10 years of NIHR research evidence on urgent and emergency care, focused on the ambulance service.
Better Endings
Better Endings draws together published and ongoing NIHR research into end of life and palliative care services, helping decision makers provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
Get involved
The NIHR Dissemination Centre works with a number of professional and public contributors throughout the entire dissemination process.
Raters
If you are interested in health or social care research, and would like to get involved in the work of the NIHR Dissemination Centre, you could consider becoming a rater.
Rater sign up form
Thank you for your interest in becoming a rater. To help us to send you the abstracts most relevant to your areas of interest and expertise, please complete and submit this short form.
Rater guidance
Raters play a crucial role in the work of the NIHR Dissemination Centre by helping us to decide which research abstracts are important enough to turn into Signals.
Example ratings
 
Advisory Group
The NIHR Dissemination Centre Advisory Group will provide advice on the development of effective strategies, plans and policies for the dissemination of relevant, important health research.
Payment to public contributors
All payments offered for involvement in the work of the centre are honorarium payments. They recognise the contribution that you as a patient, carer or member of the public make to our work.
Materials and resources
You can help us to raise awareness about the importance of using the best available research evidence to inform decision-making in health and social care.
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