Tag: evidence syntheses

Catch-up post 3: research under lockdown

One of the consequences of NHS resources being mobilised so decisively towards meeting the threat of the novel coronavirus has been the cessation of much face-to-face nursing and health services research other than that connected with COVID-19. A response in March 2020 from the NIHR included the instruction to delay the setting-up of new non-COVID projects, and to pause ongoing studies, in order that the infrastructure supporting NHS research be brought to bear almost exclusively on efforts to tackle the pandemic.

In this context, I have also observed how the online survey has become the method of choice for researchers wanting to immediately understand the effects of the COVID crisis on wellbeing and work. In April 2020, a team led by Chris Bundy from the School of Healthcare Sciences in Cardiff University launched a coping during coronavirus survey, whilst a team including Healthcare Sciences’ Danny Kelly invited nurses to take part in the first of three planned surveys reporting experiences during the crisis. The Mental Health Policy Research Unit, meanwhile, has opened its programme of COVID-related research with a survey for people working in mental health services.

WCEBCMeanwhile, one type of research relatively unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak is the evidence synthesis. In Cardiff we have the Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care and, in the early months of 2020, I joined a team led by Nicola Evans and Wales Centre colleagues to start work on a synthesis of the evidence in the areas of service organisation, effectiveness and experiences for children and young people in mental health crisis. Our plans include database searching plus online searching for grey literature, policies and guidance. More to follow as the project unfolds, which in April saw us deep in title and abstract screening.

Introducing the MENLOC study

menloc logo 5A big part of my work this year is this recently funded evidence synthesis in the area of end of life care for people with severe mental illness. This is a cross-university study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery (HS&DR) Research Programme, which also features service user researchers and a stakeholder advisory group populated by people with experience in both the mental health and end of life care fields.

Here, from our protocol, is a summary of what we’re up to:

The aim of this project is to synthesise relevant research and other appropriate evidence relating to the organisation, provision and receipt of end of life care for people with severe mental illness (including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychoses, major depression and personality disorder) who have an additional diagnosis of advanced, incurable, cancer and/or end-stage lung, heart, renal or liver failure and who are likely to die within the next 12 months.

Outputs from the project will be tailored to stakeholders, and clear implications will be drawn for the future commissioning, organisation, management and provision of clinical care. Recommendations will be made for future data-generating studies designed to inform service and practice improvements, guidance and policy.

In this context, summary objectives are to:

  1. locate, appraise and synthesise relevant research;
  2. locate and synthesise policy, guidance, case reports and other grey and non-research literature;
  3. produce outputs with clear implications for service commissioning, organisation and provision;
  4. make recommendations for future research designed to inform service improvements, guidance and policy.

This review will be conducted according to the guidance developed by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) and will be reported following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement recommendations. Reflecting Evidence for Policy and Practice Information (EPPI) Centre principles, opportunities will also be embedded into the project to maximise stakeholder engagement for the purposes of both shaping its focus and maximising its reach and impact.

Searches will be developed initially using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and text words across health, social care and psychology databases from their inception. In consultation with a stakeholder advisory group, supplementary methods will be developed to identify additional material including policies, reports, expert opinion pieces and case studies. All English language items relating to the provision and receipt of end of life care for people with severe mental illness and an additional diagnosis of advanced, incurable, cancer and/or end-stage lung, heart, renal or liver failure will be included. All included citations will be assessed for quality using tools developed by the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP), or alternatives as necessary if suitable CASP tools are not available. Data will be extracted into tables, and subjected to meta-analyses where possible or thematic synthesis with help from NVivo. Strength of synthesised findings will be reported where possible using GRADE and CerQual.

Information derived from the processes described above will be drawn on in an accessibly written summary. Uniquely, this synthesis will comprehensively bring together evidence on factors facilitating and hindering high-quality end of life care for people with severe mental illness, who have an additional diagnosis of advanced, incurable, cancer and/or end-stage lung, heart, renal or liver failure, and evidence relating to services, processes, interventions, views and experiences. Implications will be stated for the improvement of relevant NHS and third sector care and recommendations will be made for future research.

menlocRight now, having convened a first advisory group meeting, we’re busy searching and sifting for evidence mostly through reviewing citations identified in a series of comprehensive database searches. I’ll be posting more here as the study progresses, but for the detail a good place to go is here for the published protocol.

Safe staffing

In a post on this site last year I drew attention to the (highly contested) decision by NICE to suspend its work on safe nurse staffing in inpatient mental health settings. Now, and with thanks to Shaun Lintern from the Health Service Journal (and to John Baker, who amongst mental health nurses has worked particularly hard to keep this issue alive), NICE’s evidence review in this area has just been published.

Here’s how the news was broken earlier this week:

Here’s a quick summary. Seven research questions were asked in the review, with searches made of fifteen databases for evidence published since 1998. To be included, studies had to report on at least one of:

  • staffing in relation to outcomes;
  • staffing in relation to factors (such as service user factors, environmental factors);
  • staffing in relation to factors and outcomes.

Studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported findings from inpatient mental health areas serving people of any age. Outcomes of interest included serious incidents (e.g., self-harm, violence), delivery of nursing care (e.g., levels of contact) and other (e.g., nurse vacancy rates). Following a process of searching and sifting just 29 papers were finally included, and subject to quality appraisal. And the conclusions? Here they are, as extracted by John Baker with a call for action:


Synthesising evidence

evidenceToday, returning to this blog after something of a gap, I find reason to reflect on the many flavours of evidence review which now exist.

In the RiSC project we’ve been using the EPPI-Centre approach, developed by people working at the Institute of Education in London. This framework has a number of desirable features, including the combination of a phase 1 mapping with a more in-depth phase 2 involving quality appraisal. Deciding the focus of phase 2 in an EPPI-Centre review involves discussion with stakeholding collaborators. That’s all to the good, proving that in evidence syntheses, as in primary data-generating studies, it is possible for researchers to work jointly with service user, carer and practitioner colleagues.

Last week, with other members of the Wales chapter of the COCAPP team, I spoke on our meta-narrative mapping of care planning and care coordination at a Swansea University seminar. Amongst other things meta-narrative mapping traces the different research traditions found within a given field. And, today, I mock-examined a delightful doctoral thesis containing a scoping review, which lays out what’s there but does not include formal quality appraisal. Then there are realist syntheses, where reviewers look across multiple studies for evidence of the generative mechanisms underpinning change in policy, services or practice. The list goes on, encompassing thematic literature reviews and, of course, Cochrane-style systematic reviews. This latter approach has been very important in driving the evidence-based practice movement, but personally I’ve always been a little disappointed at its insistence on hierarchies with randomised trials as the gold standard.

So how might decisions be made on selecting one approach over another? Practical considerations have a bearing, but perhaps more important are commitments to certain intellectual or other principles. We chose the EPPI-Centre approach in RiSC because we valued user, carer, practitioner and manager perspectives and wanted a way of hearing these and using them to inform our project. Realist reviewers sign up to particular sets of ideas on how programmes work, and meta-narrative mappers embrace the idea, and seek out examples, of paradigmatic differerence. Perhaps the key thing is to be aware of, and articulate, these in justifying the choices which inevitably have to be made.

Evidence syntheses and the RiSC study

I’ve been working on a document associated with the RiSC study today. RiSC is an evidence synthesis of ‘risk’ for young people moving into, through and out of inpatient mental health services. To guide our review we’re using a framework developed by members of the the EPPI-Centre, about which more can be found by clicking on the logo below:EPPI Centre

Distinct about the EPPI-Centre approach is the emphasis placed on engaging with representatives of groups and communities with interests in the area under review. In their Methods for Conducting Systematic Reviews document the EPPI-Centre people write:

Approaches to reviewing
Involving representatives of all those who might have a vested interest in a particular systematic review helps to ensure that it is a relevant and useful piece of research.
User involvement
Everyone has a vested interest in public policy issues such as health, education, work and welfare. Consequently everyone, whether they wish to be actively engaged or not, has a vested interest in what research is undertaken in these fields and how research findings are shared and put to use.
Reviews are driven by the questions that they are seeking to answer. Different users may have different views about why a particular topic is important and interpret the issues within different ideological and theoretical perspectives.
Involving a range of users in a review is important as it enables reviewers to recognise and consider different users’ implicit viewpoints and thus to make a considered decision about the question that the review is attempting to answer. The aim is to be transparent about why a review has the focus that it does, rather than assuming it is, or is attempting to be, everything to everyone.

In our review (as you’ll see if you download our protocol from the link given at the top of this post above) we’re combining a broad descriptive mapping of the territory with a more selective, in-depth, review guided by the priorities of stakeholder representatives. These are people with experience of using, working in or managing child and adolescent mental health services.

I like this approach to conducting evidence reviews, appreciating the commitment it demands to the agreement of topic areas and to being open in decision-making. All going well I’ll be continuing with some RiSC work tomorrow.

End of the working day train blog

Here’s a quick post from the train heading home. At least there are plenty of seats to be had at this time of the evening, but missing a train can mean a fair wait until the next arrives. Anyway: this morning’s teleconference with the evidence synthesis team confirmed how much we’ve achieved so far in this project. This is a review in the area of ‘risk’ for young people using inpatient mental health services. I’m very much appreciating the design we’re using, which revolves around two reviewing stages. Following an initial scoping, representatives from the wider stakeholder field have the chance to shape the priorities for our second, in-depth, review phase.

Today has also brought some MSc-related work, and a chance to meet with pre-registration postgraduate students to talk about dissertations and research approvals. Tomorrow’s COCAPP team meeting is all planned for, and then it’s onwards to Mental Health Nurse Academics with a meal in the evening and the big meet-up of the clans on Friday. Goodness me, it’s all happening.

Abstract-sifting, a new publication, and music to work by

Not much time for blogging lately, what with one thing and another. I’ve turned into a kind of abstract-sifting machine, poring over the details of papers for possible inclusion in two unrelated evidence syntheses/literature reviews. Amongst other things I’ve also been making some final preparations for a day away (as an examiner) later this week, catching up with colleagues over various bits and pieces, and arranging to meet up with undergraduate students.

Some good news over the weekend was confirmation of a new paper being accepted for publication, in the International Journal of Nursing Studies. My friend Michael Coffey is lead author, and we’ve written about the emergence of the role of approved mental health professional and what this means for nursing. A quick look at the SHERPA/RoMEO website suggests we’ll be able to add post-peer review versions to our respective institutional repositories. I’ll then add a link, and perhaps a bit of a commentary, on this blog.

As an aside, I am reminded of the majesty of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. It’s more than a decade since I was first introduced to this, and it now occupies a special place in my (eclectic) music collection. I mention this as Kind of Blue is an album I often turn to when I’m fretting over tasks requiring concentration: like writing, or indeed sifting abstracts. I listened to it today, in its entirety. Then I listened to it again.