• The cumulative effect of core lifestyle behaviours on the prevalence of hypertension and dyslipidemia.

      Villegas, Raquel; Kearney, Patricia M; Perry, Ivan J; Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. raquel.villegas@Vanderbilt.Edu (2008)
      BACKGROUND: Most cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurs in the presence of traditional risk factors, including hypertension and dyslipidemia, and these in turn are influenced by behavioural factors such as diet and lifestyle. Previous research has identified a group at low risk of CVD based on a cluster of inter-related factors: body mass index (BMI) < 25 Kg/m2, moderate exercise, alcohol intake, non-smoking and a favourable dietary pattern. The objective of this study was to determine whether these factors are associated with a reduced prevalence of hypertension and dyslipidemia in an Irish adult population. METHODS: The study was a cross-sectional survey of 1018 men and women sampled from 17 general practices. Participants completed health, lifestyle and food frequency questionnaires and provided fasting blood samples for analysis of glucose and insulin. We defined a low risk group based on the following protective factors: BMI <25 kg/m2; waist-hip ratio (WHR) <0.85 for women and <0.90 for men; never smoking status; participants with medium to high levels of physical activity; light alcohol consumption (3.5-7 units of alcohol/week) and a "prudent" diet. Dietary patterns were assessed by cluster analysis. RESULTS: We found strong significant inverse associations between the number of protective factors and systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and dyslipidemia. The prevalence odds ratio of hypertension in persons with 1, 2, 3, > or = 4 protective factors relative to those with none, were 1.0, 0.76, 0.68 and 0.34 (trend p < 0.01). The prevalence odds ratio of dyslipidemia in persons with 1, 2, 3, > or = 4 protective factors relative to those with none were 0.83, 0.98, 0.49 and 0.24 (trend p = 0.001). CONCLUSION: Our findings of a strong inverse association between low risk behaviours and two of the traditional risk factors for CVD highlight the importance of 'the causes of the causes' and the potential for behaviour modification in CVD prevention at a population level.
    • Factors influencing general practitioner referral of patients developing end-stage renal failure: a standardised case-analysis study.

      Montgomery, Anthony J; McGee, Hannah M; Shannon, William; Donohoe, John; Department of Psychology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Medical University of Bahrain, PO Box 15503, Manama, Bahrain. amontgomery@rcsi-mub.com (2006)
      BACKGROUND: To understand why treatment referral rates for ESRF are lower in Ireland than in other European countries, an investigation of factors influencing general practitioner referral of patients developing ESRF was conducted. METHOD: Randomly selected general practitioners (N = 51) were interviewed using 32 standardised written patient scenarios to elicit referral strategies. Main outcome measures: General practitioner referral levels and thresholds for patients developing end-stage renal disease; referral routes (nephrologist vs other physicians); influence of patient age, marital status and co-morbidity on referral. RESULTS: Referral levels varied widely with the full range of cases (0-32; median = 15) referred by different doctors after consideration of first laboratory results. Less than half (44%) of cases were referred to a nephrologist. Patient age (40 vs 70 years), marital status, co-morbidity (none vs rheumatoid arthritis) and general practitioner prior specialist renal training (yes or no) did not influence referral rates. Many patients were not referred to a specialist at creatinine levels of 129 micromol/l (47% not referred) or 250 micromol/l (45%). While all patients were referred at higher levels (350 and 480 micromol/l), referral to a nephrologist decreased in likelihood as scenarios became more complex; 28% at 129 micromol/l creatinine; 28% at 250 micromol/l; 18% at 350 micromol/l and 14% at 480 micromol/l. Referral levels and routes were not influenced by general practitioner age, sex or practice location. Most general practitioners had little current contact with chronic renal patients (mean number in practice = 0.7, s.d. = 1.3). CONCLUSION: The very divergent management patterns identified highlight the need for guidance to general practitioners on appropriate management of this serious condition.
    • Factors prompting PSA-testing of asymptomatic men in a country with no guidelines: a national survey of general practitioners.

      Drummond, Frances J; Carsin, Anne-Elie; Sharp, Linda; Comber, Harry; National Cancer Registry, Ireland, Building 6800, Airport Business Park, Kinsale Rd, Cork, Ireland. f.drummond@ncri.ie (2009)
      BACKGROUND: Increased use of prostate specific antigen (PSA) has been associated with increased prostate cancer incidence. Ireland is estimated to have one of the highest prostate cancer incidences in Europe and has no national guidelines for prostate cancer screening. GPs have a pivotal role in influencing PSA testing, therefore, our aim was to describe GP testing practices and to identify factors influencing these. METHODS: A postal survey, including questions on clinical practice and experience, knowledge and demographics was distributed to all GPs (n = 3,683). The main outcomes were (i) PSA testing asymptomatic men and (ii) "inappropriate" PSA testing, defined as testing asymptomatic men aged < 50 or > 75 years. Factors associated with these outcomes were identified using logistic regression. RESULTS: 1,625 GPs responded (response rate corrected for eligibility = 53%). Most respondents (79%) would PSA test asymptomatic men. Of these, 34% and 51% would test asymptomatic men < 50 and > 75 years, respectively. In multivariate analyses, GPs were more likely to test asymptomatic men if they were >or= 50 years, in practice >or= 10 years, female or less knowledgeable about PSA efficacy. Male GPs who would have a PSA test themselves were > 8-times more likely to PSA test asymptomatic men than GPs who would not have a test. GPs who had an asymptomatic patient diagnosed with prostate cancer following PSA testing, were > 3-times more likely to test asymptomatic men. Practice-related factors positively associated with testing included: running 'well man' clinics, performing occupational health checks and performing other tests routinely with PSA. Factors positively associated with 'inappropriate' testing included; being male and willing to have a PSA test, having worked/trained in the UK and supporting annual PSA testing. 91% of respondents supported the development of national PSA testing guidelines. CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that widespread PSA testing of asymptomatic men in primary care is primarily due to a combination of clinical experience, poor knowledge and the support of doctors for PSA testing, as evidenced by the willingness of male doctors to have a PSA test. There is an urgent need for education and support for GPs concerning prostate cancer screening, starting with the implementation of national guidelines.
    • 'I'm a happy little Vegemite, doctor!'.

      O'Malley, Declan; decomalley@yahoo.co.uk (2009-11)
      At the onset of a mild Victorian winter, four enthusiastic, fresh faced Irish general practice registrars made their way to Australia on an academic and cultural exchange. As registrars in the final throws of our fourth year general practice training in Donegal, we swapped the rugged, windswept northwest coast of Ireland for Gippsland in Victoria.
    • Identifying strategies to maximise recruitment and retention of practices and patients in a multicentre randomised controlled trial of an intervention to optimise secondary prevention for coronary heart disease in primary care.

      Leathem, Claire S; Cupples, Margaret E; Byrne, Mary C; O'Malley, Mary; Houlihan, Ailish; Murphy, Andrew W; Smith, Susan M; Department of General Practice, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. c.leathem@qub.ac.uk (2009)
      BACKGROUND: Recruitment and retention of patients and healthcare providers in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is important in order to determine the effectiveness of interventions. However, failure to achieve recruitment targets is common and reasons why a particular recruitment strategy works for one study and not another remain unclear. We sought to describe a strategy used in a multicentre RCT in primary care, to report researchers' and participants' experiences of its implementation and to inform future strategies to maximise recruitment and retention. METHODS: In total 48 general practices and 903 patients were recruited from three different areas of Ireland to a RCT of an intervention designed to optimise secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. The recruitment process involved telephoning practices, posting information, visiting practices, identifying potential participants, posting invitations and obtaining consent. Retention involved patients attending reviews and responding to questionnaires and practices facilitating data collection. RESULTS: We achieved high retention rates for practices (100%) and for patients (85%) over an 18-month intervention period. Pilot work, knowledge of the setting, awareness of change in staff and organisation amongst participant sites, rapid responses to queries and acknowledgement of practitioners' contributions were identified as being important. Minor variations in protocol and research support helped to meet varied, complex and changing individual needs of practitioners and patients and encouraged retention in the trial. A collaborative relationship between researcher and practice staff which required time to develop was perceived as vital for both recruitment and retention. CONCLUSION: Recruiting and retaining the numbers of practices and patients estimated as required to provide findings with adequate power contributes to increased confidence in the validity and generalisability of RCT results. A continuous dynamic process of monitoring progress within trials and tailoring strategies to particular circumstances, whilst not compromising trial protocols, should allow maximal recruitment and retention. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN24081411.
    • An investigation into the use of complementary and alternative medicine in an urban general practice.

      Mc Kenna, F; Killoury, F; Rath Mhuire Health Centre, 9 Malahide Rd, Swords, Co Dublin. drfionamckenna@yahoo.ie (2010-11-05)
      Several International studies have shown the substantial growth in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). However, no study in the Republic of Ireland to date has looked at its use among the population. A cross-sectional survey of 328 patients attending an urban general practice was conducted. A high number of respondents reported having visited a CAM practitioner within the past 12 months (89 patients; 27%). A significant positive association was found between CAM use and female gender (p = 0.006), middle-aged (p = 0.013), private health insurance (p = 0.016) and full time employment (p = 0.031). Massage was the most common modality used (35 patients; 39.8%), the most common reason for use was 'to treat an illness for which conventional medicine was already sought' (31 patients; 42%), a high rate of non-disclosure to GPs was found (34 patients; 41%) and personal recommendation was the most important source of information (42 patients; 53.2%). This study demonstrates the current popularity of an alternative healthcare system.
    • A postal survey of data in general practice on the prevalence of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) in patients aged 18-65 in one county in the west of Ireland.

      Finnerty, Fionnuala; Glynn, Liam; Dineen, Brendan; Colfer, Finbarr; Macfarlane, Anne; Department of Medical and Social Care Education Medical School, Leicester, LE 1 9HN, UK. ff21@leicester.ac.uk (2009)
      BACKGROUND: Very little is known about the prevalence of acquired brain injury (ABI) in Ireland. ABI prevalence has previously been obtained from Belgian general practitioners using a postal survey. We attempted to ascertain the prevalence of ABI in County Mayo through a postal survey of all general practitioners in the county.The specific objectives of this project were to:1. identify whether general practitioners are a. aware of patients with ABI aged 18-65 in their practices b. able to provide prevalence data on ABI in patients aged 18-65 c. able to provide data on age, gender and patient diagnosis 2. analyse prevalence of ABI from any available data from general practitioners. METHODS: A pilot postal survey was performed initially in order to assess the feasibility of the study. It was established that general practitioners did have the necessary information required to complete the questionnaire. A main postal survey was then undertaken. A postal questionnaire was administered to all general practices in County Mayo in the west of Ireland (n = 59). The response rate was 32.2% (n = 19). RESULTS: General practitioners who replied on behalf of their practice could provide data on patient age, gender and diagnosis. In the nineteen practices, there were 57 patients with ABI. The age-specific prevalence of ABI in the area surveyed was estimated at 183.7 per 100,000. The mean patient population per practice was 2,833 (SD = 950). There were found to be significantly more patients with ABI in rural areas than urban areas (p = 0.006). There were also significant differences in the ages of patients in the different ABI categories. Patients whose ABI was of traumatic origin were significantly younger than those patients with ABI of haemorrhagic origin (p = 0.002). CONCLUSION: Although this is a small-scale study, we have ascertained that general practitioners do have data on patients with ABI. Also, some prevalence data now exist where none was available before. These can be used to form the basis of a more substantial programme of university/community partnership research which could provide medical and psychosocial benefits for people with ABI and their families.
    • A randomised controlled trial of a lengthened and multi-disciplinary consultation model in a socially deprived community: a study protocol.

      Whitford, David L; Chan, Wai-Sun; Family and Community Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Medical University of Bahrain, Adliya, Kingdom of Bahrain. dwhitford@rcsi-mub.com (2007)
      BACKGROUND: There has been little development of the general practice consultation over the years, and many aspects of the present consultation do not serve communities with multiple health and social problems well. Many of the problems presenting to general practitioners in socio-economically disadvantaged areas are not amenable to a purely medical solution, and would particularly benefit from a multidisciplinary approach. Socio-economic deprivation is also associated with those very factors (more psychosocial problems, greater need for health promotion, more chronic diseases, more need for patient enablement) that longer consultations have been shown to address. This paper describes our study protocol, which aims to evaluate whether a lengthened multidisciplinary primary care team consultation with families in a socially deprived area can improve the psychological health of mothers in the families. METHODS/DESIGN: In a randomised controlled trial, families with a history of social problems, substance misuse or depression are randomly allocated to an intervention or control group. The study is based in three general practices in a highly deprived area of North Dublin. Primary health care teams will be trained in conducting a multidisciplinary lengthened consultation. Families in the intervention group will participate in the new style multidisciplinary consultation. Outcomes of families receiving the intervention will be compared to the control group who will receive only usual general practitioner care. The primary outcome is the psychological health of mothers of the families and secondary outcomes include general health status, quality of life measures and health service usage. DISCUSSION: The main aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a lengthened multidisciplinary team consultation in primary care. The embedded nature of this study in general practices in a highly deprived area ensures generalisability to other deprived communities, but more particularly it promises relevance to primary care. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN70578736.
    • Responses to language barriers in consultations with refugees and asylum seekers: a telephone survey of Irish general practitioners.

      MacFarlane, Anne; Glynn, Liam G; Mosinkie, Phillip I; Murphy, Andrew W; Department of General Practice, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. anne.macfarlane@nuigalway.ie (2008)
      BACKGROUND: Refugees and asylum seekers experience language barriers in general practice. Qualitative studies have found that responses to language barriers in general practice are ad hoc with use of both professional interpreters and informal interpreters (patients' relatives or friends). However, the scale of the issues involved is unknown. This study quantifies the need for language assistance in general practice consultations and examines the experience of, and satisfaction with, methods of language assistance utilized. METHODS: Data were collected by telephone survey with general practitioners in a regional health authority in Ireland between July-August 2004. Each respondent was asked a series of questions about consulting with refugees and asylum seekers, the need for language assistance and the kind of language assistance used. RESULTS: There was a 70% (n = 56/80) response rate to the telephone survey. The majority of respondents (77%) said that they had experienced consultations with refugees and asylum seekers in which language assistance was required. Despite this, general practitioners in the majority of cases managed without an interpreter or used informal methods of interpretation. In fact, when given a choice general practitioners would more often choose informal over professional methods of interpretation despite the fact that confidentiality was a significant concern. CONCLUSION: The need for language assistance in consultations with refugees and asylum seekers in Irish general practice is high. General practitioners rely on informal responses. It is necessary to improve knowledge about the organisational contexts that shape general practitioners responses. We also recommend dialogue between general practitioners, patients and interpreters about the relative merits of informal and professional methods of interpretation so that general practitioners' choices are responsive to the needs of patients with limited English.
    • Structuring diabetes care in general practices: many improvements, remaining challenges.

      Jennings, S; Whitford, D L; Carey, D; Smith, S M; Dept of Public Health Medicine, Health Service Executive, Dr Steevens Hospital, Dublin. siobhan.jennings@mailf.hse.ie (2009-08-07)
      BACKGROUND: For people with type 2 diabetes to enjoy improved longevity and quality of life, care needs to be organised in a systematic way. AIM: To test if processes and intermediate outcomes for patients with type 2 diabetes changed with the move to structured care in general practice shared with secondary care. METHODS: An audit of process and intermediate outcomes for patients with type 2 diabetes before and after the change to structured care in 10 Dublin general practices shared with secondary care four years on. RESULTS: Structured diabetes care in general practice has led to more dedicated clinics improved processes of care and increased access to multidisciplinary expertise. Improvement in blood pressure control, the use of aspirin and the use of lipid lowering agents indicate a significant decrease in absolute risk of vascular events for this population. CONCLUSIONS: Structured care in general practice improves intermediate outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes. Further improvements need to be made to reach international targets.
    • Telephone survey of private patients' views on continuity of care and registration with general practice in Ireland.

      Carmody, Patricia; Whitford, David L; Fairview Family Practice, Dublin 3, Ireland. patriciacarmody@ffp.ie <patriciacarmody@ffp.ie> (2007)
      BACKGROUND: The desire of patients for personal continuity of care with a General Practitioner (GP) has been well documented, but not within non-registered private patients in Ireland. This study set out to examine the attitudes and reported behaviours of private fee-paying patients towards continuity of GP care and universal registration for patients. METHODS: Cross-sectional telephone survey of 400 randomly chosen fee-paying patients living within County Dublin. There is no formal system of registration with a GP for these patients. Main outcomes were attendance of respondents at primary health care facilities and their attitudes towards continuity of care and registration with a GP. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and using parametric and non-parametric tests of association. Pearson correlation was used to quantify the association between the described variables and attitudes towards continuity and registration with a GP. Variables showing significance at the 5% level were entered into multiple linear regression models. RESULTS: 97% of respondents had seen a GP in the previous 5 years. The mean number of visits to the GP for respondents was 2.3 per annum. 89% of respondents had a regular GP and the mean length of time with their GP was 15.6 years. 96% preferred their personal medical care to be provided within one general practice. 16% of respondents had consulted a GP outside of their own practice in the previous year. They were more likely to be female, commute a longer distance to work or have poorer health status. 81% considered it important to be officially registered with a GP practice of their choice. CONCLUSION: Both personal and longitudinal continuity of care with a GP are important to private patients. Respondents who chose to visit GPs other than their regular GP were not easily characterised in this study and individual circumstances may lead to this behaviour. There is strong support for a system of universal patient registration within general practice.