Reflections on SAPC-SW by Charley Hobson-Merrett

Reflections on SAPC-SW

The South-West Society for Academic Primary Care (SAPC-SW) conference is a local, friendly, conference attended by a delightful mixture of practitioners and academics.  The variety of attendees and the localised nature of the conference result in presentation content that is an interesting melting pot of clinical and PhD student projects, results from large programmes and trials, and logistical trial science/methodological issues.  This leads to insightful and creative conversations about the content and nature of research that can be undertaken in relation to primary care, and how to undertake it.  Indeed, the most well received presentation I’ve given at any conference was an elevator pitch at SAPC-SW 2019 discussing logistical difficulties and solutions when recruiting GP practices to cluster randomised controlled trials (to blow my own trumpet: this won ‘best elevator pitch’ that year).

SAPC-SW 2018, hosted by the University of Plymouth Community & Primary Care Research Group  (CPCRG), was the first conference I attended as a speaker.  As such, this conference holds a special place in my heart, and I was excited to hear of its return for 2022, hosted by our neighbour and often collaborator, the University of Exeter.  For me, conferences are not only an opportunity to show-case our work, but also to interact with others: forging new relationships and creating new ideas.  Therefore, I was pleased to have three abstracts accepted for this conference:

  1. The results of a Cochrane systematic review regarding the effectiveness of collaborative care for people with diagnoses of severe mental illness (together with our Exeter colleague, Ben Jones),
  2. The Realist process evaluation of a cluster randomised controlled trial for a collaborative care intervention for people with diagnoses of severe mental illness (PARTNERS2)
  3. A mixed methods scoping review of the prevalence, impact and management of fatigue and sedation side effects of antipsychotics.

I was also proud to see my colleague Debra Richards make her first ever conference presentation, sharing the quantitative results of the PARTNERS2 cluster randomised controlled trial.  Together our presentations meant that collaborative care formed one of the major themes in the mental health room at this conference.  This not only led to discussions surrounding the effectiveness and policy drive to implement collaborative care, but also to interesting debate regarding the limitations of, and alternatives to, randomised controlled trial methodologies in ascertaining the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in populations with long-standing conditions.  Notably, the role of Realism in unpicking reasons for null results was well received.

Also of note in the mental health room was the continuing conversation around de-prescribing antidepressants and antipsychotics, which has been a popular research topic for both PhD students and GPs since I started attending SAPC-SW in 2018.  With the changes in NICE guidelines regarding de-prescribing, and due to a personal interest as a result of being an unpaid carer, I continue to watch this topic with interest.  I found the focus on qualitative understandings of patient’s perspectives regarding the role of their medication and de-prescribing to be an exciting development in this area.

Due to CPCRG’s focus on complex care, expertise in Realism, and increasing speciality in the researcher-in-residence evaluation model, some of our team’s presentations spilled over into the ‘miscellaneous’ room.  This was an excellent opportunity to catch up with the work of fellow researchers-in-residence, Julian Elston and Todd Chenore, and the findings of the TARS study, which aimed to assess the effectiveness of using physical activity to reduce smoking.  This room was also a good example of how conferences can increase your awareness of seemingly tangential areas of research that can actually have a large impact on your own work.  I was particularly struck by the work of PhD student Janice Hoang, who was researching contrasting GP training models internationally.  Her overview of the purpose of primary care in different countries prompted some reflections amongst the collaborative care researchers regarding the appropriateness of comparing collaborative care models from countries in which primary care serves different purposes.  This cross disciplinary thinking is, for me, what conferences are all about, and served as a great reminder of why we must continue to foster opportunities and comfortable spaces for people to share their findings.  I look forward to SAPC-SW 2023!

Charley Hobson-Merrett, Research Fellow
interests: improving mental health care, impacts of antipsychotics, Realism, researcher-in-residence, service evaluations, mixed methods.

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