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1.  Intravenous sodium nitrite in acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction: a randomized controlled trial (NIAMI) 
European Heart Journal  2014;35(19):1255-1262.
Despite prompt revascularization of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), substantial myocardial injury may occur, in part a consequence of ischaemia reperfusion injury (IRI). There has been considerable interest in therapies that may reduce IRI. In experimental models of AMI, sodium nitrite substantially reduces IRI. In this doubleblind randomized placebo controlled parallel-group trial, we investigated the effects of sodium nitrite administered immediately prior to reperfusion in patients with acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).
Methods and results
A total of 229 patients presenting with acute STEMI were randomized to receive either an i.v. infusion of 70 μmol sodium nitrite (n = 118) or matching placebo (n = 111) over 5 min immediately before primary percutaneous intervention (PPCI). Patients underwent cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) at 6–8 days and at 6 months and serial blood sampling was performed over 72 h for the measurement of plasma creatine kinase (CK) and Troponin I. Myocardial infarct size (extent of late gadolinium enhancement at 6–8 days by CMR-the primary endpoint) did not differ between nitrite and placebo groups after adjustment for area at risk, diabetes status, and centre (effect size −0.7% 95% CI: −2.2%, +0.7%; P = 0.34). There were no significant differences in any of the secondary endpoints, including plasma troponin I and CK area under the curve, left ventricular volumes (LV), and ejection fraction (EF) measured at 6–8 days and at 6 months and final infarct size (FIS) measured at 6 months.
Sodium nitrite administered intravenously immediately prior to reperfusion in patients with acute STEMI does not reduce infarct size.
PMCID: PMC4019912  PMID: 24639423
Acute myocardial infarction; Ischaemia-reperfusion injury; Cardioprotection; Nitrite
2.  The ethics of future trials: qualitative analysis of physicians’ decision making 
Trials  2016;17:12.
The decision to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in a field raises ethical as well as scientific issues. From the clinical equipoise literature, future trials are justifiable if there is ”honest, professional disagreement in the community of expert practitioners as to the preferred treatment”. Empirical data are sparse about how clinicians apply the principles of equipoise to the justification of future RCTs. For example, selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) is not widely used in critical care practice despite the strength of the evidence base and therefore provides a unique opportunity to learn how clinicians think about the ethics of further RCTs in critical care.
In an international interview study of views of healthcare professionals about SDD, we undertook a secondary analysis of qualitative data collected using a Theoretical Domains Framework of clinical behaviour. We adopted a general descriptive approach to explore how physicians determined whether another RCT of SDD is ethical. Following a constant comparison approach, three investigators reviewed 54 purposively chosen transcripts from three international regions. We interpreted the data using thematic analysis.
We grouped participants’ responses into four inter-related themes: 1) cultural norms about evidence and practice within healthcare; 2) personal views about what evidence is current or applicable; 3) the interpersonal and relational nature of professional decision making locally; and 4) an a priori commitment to future trials. The analysis also identified several unresolved tensions regarding when a future RCT should be pursued. These tensions focused on a clash between potential benefits to current individual patients and potential future harms to patients more broadly.
Our study suggests that ethical decision making about future RCTs in the field of SDD does not rely strongly on appeals to evidence, even when the quality of the evidence is reasonably high. Rather, “extra-evidential” reasons, including social, professional, and relational factors, seem to influence opinions regarding the ethics of future trials. Further work is required to see if these conclusions are applicable to other clinical topics and settings.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-1137-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4704430  PMID: 26739307
Ethics; Clinical equipoise; Harm-benefit analysis; Critical care; Evidence-based medicine; Qualitative research; Randomized controlled trials
3.  Open urethroplasty versus endoscopic urethrotomy - clarifying the management of men with recurrent urethral stricture (the OPEN trial): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2015;16:600.
Urethral stricture is a common cause of difficulty passing urine in men with prevalence of 0.5 %; about 62,000 men in the UK. The stricture is usually sited in the bulbar part of the urethra causing symptoms such as reduced urine flow. Initial treatment is typically by endoscopic urethrotomy but recurrence occurs in about 60 % of men within 2 years. The best treatment for men with recurrent bulbar stricture is uncertain. Repeat endoscopic urethrotomy opens the narrowing but it usually scars up again within 2 years requiring repeated procedures. The alternative of open urethroplasty involves surgically reconstructing the urethra, which may need an oral mucosal graft. It is a specialist procedure with a longer recovery period but may give lower risk of recurrence. In the absence of firm evidence as to which is best, individual men have to trade off the invasiveness and possible benefit of each option. Their preference will be influenced by individual social circumstances, availability of local expertise and clinician guidance. The open urethroplasty versus endoscopic urethrotomy (OPEN) trial aims to better guide the choice of treatment for men with recurrent urethral strictures by comparing benefit over 2 years in terms of symptom control and need for further treatment.
OPEN is a pragmatic, UK multicentre, randomised trial. Men with recurrent bulbar urethral strictures (at least one previous treatment) will be randomised to undergo endoscopic urethrotomy or open urethroplasty. Participants will be followed for 24 months after randomisation, measuring symptoms, flow rate, the need for re-intervention, health-related quality of life, and costs. The primary clinical outcome is the difference in symptom control over 24 months measured by the area under the curve (AUC) of a validated score. The trial has been powered at 90 % with a type I error rate of 5 % to detect a 0.1 difference in AUC measured on a 0–1 scale. The analysis will be based on all participants as randomised (intention-to-treat). The primary economic outcome is the incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year. A qualitative study will assess willingness to be randomised and hence ability to recruit to the trial.
The OPEN Trial seeks to clarify relative benefit of the current options for surgical treatment of recurrent bulbar urethral stricture which differ in their invasiveness and resources required. Our feasibility study identified that participation would be limited by patient preference and differing recruitment styles of general and specialist urologists. We formulated and implemented effective strategies to address these issues in particular by inviting participation as close as possible to diagnosis. In addition re-calculation of sample size as recruitment progressed allowed more efficient design given the limited target population and funding constraints. Recruitment is now to target.
Trial registration
ISRCTN98009168 Date of registration: 29 November 2012.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-1120-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4697334  PMID: 26718754
Bulbar urethra; Urethral stricture; Randomised trial urethroplasty; Endoscopic urethrotomy; Cost-effectiveness analysis
8.  Perspectives on financial incentives to health service providers for increasing breast feeding and smoking quit rates during pregnancy: a mixed methods study 
BMJ Open  2015;5(11):e008492.
To explore the acceptability, mechanisms and consequences of provider incentives for smoking cessation and breast feeding as part of the Benefits of Incentives for Breastfeeding and Smoking cessation in pregnancy (BIBS) study.
Cross-sectional survey and qualitative interviews.
Scotland and North West England.
Early years professionals: 497 survey respondents included 156 doctors; 197 health visitors/maternity staff; 144 other health staff. Qualitative interviews or focus groups were conducted with 68 pregnant/postnatal women/family members; 32 service providers; 22 experts/decision-makers; 63 conference attendees.
Early years professionals were surveyed via email about the acceptability of payments to local health services for reaching smoking cessation in pregnancy and breastfeeding targets. Agreement was measured on a 5-point scale using multivariable ordered logit models. A framework approach was used to analyse free-text survey responses and qualitative data.
Health professional net agreement for provider incentives for smoking cessation targets was 52.9% (263/497); net disagreement was 28.6% (142/497). Health visitors/maternity staff were more likely than doctors to agree: OR 2.35 (95% CI 1.51 to 3.64; p<0.001). Net agreement for provider incentives for breastfeeding targets was 44.1% (219/497) and net disagreement was 38.6% (192/497). Agreement was more likely for women (compared with men): OR 1.81 (1.09 to 3.00; p=0.023) and health visitors/maternity staff (compared with doctors): OR 2.54 (95% CI 1.65 to 3.91; p<0.001). Key emergent themes were ‘moral tensions around acceptability’, ‘need for incentives’, ‘goals’, ‘collective or divisive action’ and ‘monitoring and proof’. While provider incentives can focus action and resources, tensions around the impact on relationships raised concerns. Pressure, burden of proof, gaming, box-ticking bureaucracies and health inequalities were counterbalances to potential benefits.
Provider incentives are favoured by non-medical staff. Solutions which increase trust and collaboration towards shared goals, without negatively impacting on relationships or increasing bureaucracy are required.
PMCID: PMC4654300  PMID: 26567253
9.  Non-compliance with randomised allocation and missing outcome data in randomised controlled trials evaluating surgical interventions: a systematic review 
BMC Research Notes  2015;8:403.
Randomised controlled trials are widely acknowledged as the gold standard in medical research although their validity can be undermined by non-compliance with the randomly allocated treatment and missing data. Due to the nature of the intervention, surgical trials face particular threat to compliance and data collection. For example, ineligibility for the intervention may only become apparent once the operation has commenced. It is unclear how such cases are reported and handled.
The objective was to assess non-compliance and missing data in reports of trials of surgical interventions.
Searches for reports of trials involving at least one surgical procedure and published in 2010 were carried out in the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE®). Data on missing data, non-compliance and methods of handling missing data were extracted from full texts. Descriptive data analyses were carried out on the data.
Forty-five (55 %) studies reported non-compliance with treatment allocation and 52 (63 %) reported primary outcome missing data. The median levels of non-compliance and missing data were 2 % [IQR (0, 5), range (0–29)] and 6 % [IQR (0, 15), range (0–57)], respectively. Fifty-two (63 %) studies analysed as randomised, 17 (21 %) analysed per protocol and 3 (4 %) analysed as treated. Complete case analysis was the most common method used to deal with missing data, 35/52 (67 %).
The reporting of non-compliance to allocation and the handling of missing data were typically suboptimal. There is still room for improvement on the use of the CONSORT statement particularly in accounting for study participants. Transparency in reporting would facilitate evidence synthesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13104-015-1364-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4558937  PMID: 26336099
Missing data; Non-compliance; Intention-to-treat; Surgical trials
10.  A systematic review of the use of an expertise-based randomised controlled trial design 
Trials  2015;16:241.
Under a conventional two-arm randomised trial design, participants are allocated to an intervention and participating health professionals are expected to deliver both interventions. However, health professionals often have differing levels of expertise in a skill-based interventions such as surgery or psychotherapy. An expertise-based approach to trial design, where health professionals only deliver an intervention in which they have expertise, has been proposed as an alternative. The aim of this project was to systematically review the use of an expertise-based trial design in the medical literature.
We carried out a comprehensive search of nine databases—AMED, BIOSIS, CENTRAL, CINAHL, Cochrane Methodology Register, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Science Citation Index, and PsycINFO—from 1966 to 2012 and performed citation searches using the ISI Citation Indexes and Scopus. Studies that used an expertise-based trial design were included. Two review authors independently screened the titles and abstracts and assessed full-text reports. Data were extracted and summarised on the study characteristics, general and expertise-specific study methodology, and conduct.
In total, 7476 titles and abstracts were identified, leading to 43 included studies (54 articles). The vast majority (88 %) used a pure expertise-based design; three (7 %) adopted a hybrid design, and two (5 %) used a design that was unclear. Most studies compared substantially different interventions (79 %). In many cases, key information relating to the expertise-based design was absent; only 12 (28 %) reported criteria for delivering both interventions. Most studies recruited the target sample size or very close to it (median of 101, interquartile range of 94 to 118), although the target was reported for only 40 % of studies. The proportion of participants who received the allocated intervention was high (92 %, interquartile range of 82 to 99 %).
While use of an expertise-based trial design is growing, it remains uncommon. Reporting of study methodology and, particularly, expertise-related methodology was poor. Empirical evidence provided some support for purported benefits such as high levels of recruitment and compliance with allocation. An expertise-based trial design should be considered but its value seems context-specific, particularly when interventions differ substantially or interventions are typically delivered by different health professionals.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-0739-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4468810  PMID: 26025450
Expertise-based; Expertise; Systematic review; Learning; Randomised controlled trial; Trial design; Non-pharmacological interventions; Surgery
11.  STOPPIT Baby Follow-Up Study: The Effect of Prophylactic Progesterone in Twin Pregnancy on Childhood Outcome 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0122341.
To determine the long-term effects of in utero progesterone exposure in twin children.
This study evaluated the health and developmental outcomes of all surviving children born to mothers who participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of progesterone given for the prevention of preterm birth in twin pregnancies (STOPPIT, ISRCTN35782581). Follow-up was performed via record linkage and two parent-completed validated questionnaires, the Child Development Inventory and the Health Utilities Index.
Record linkage was successfully performed on at least one record in 759/781 (97%) children eligible for follow-up. There were no differences between progesterone-exposed and placebo-exposed twins with respect to incidence of death, congenital anomalies and hospitalisation, nor on routine national child health assessments. Questionnaire responses were received for 324/738 (44%) children. The mean age at questionnaire follow-up was 55.5 months. Delay in at least one developmental domain on the Child Development Inventory was observed in 107/324 (33%) children, with no evidence of difference between progesterone-exposed and placebo-exposed twins. There was no evidence of difference between the progesterone and placebo groups in global health status assessed using the Health Utilities Index: 89% of children were rated as having ‘excellent’ health and a further 8% as having ‘very good’ health.
In this cohort of twin children there was no evidence of a detrimental or beneficial impact on health and developmental outcomes at three to six years of age due to in utero exposure to progesterone.
PMCID: PMC4400139  PMID: 25881289
12.  Public acceptability of financial incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy and breast feeding: a survey of the British public 
BMJ Open  2014;4(7):e005524.
To survey public attitudes about incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy and for breast feeding to inform trial design.
Cross-sectional survey.
Setting and participants
British general public.
Seven promising incentive strategies had been identified from evidence syntheses and qualitative interview data from service users and providers. These were shopping vouchers for: (1) validated smoking cessation in pregnancy and (2) after birth; (3) for a smoke-free home; (4) for proven breast feeding; (5) a free breast pump; (6) payments to health services for reaching smoking cessation in pregnancy targets and (7) breastfeeding targets. Ipsos MORI used area quota sampling and home-administered computer-assisted questionnaires, with randomised question order to assess agreement with different incentives (measured on a five-point scale). Demographic data and target behaviour experience were recorded. Analysis used multivariable ordered logit models.
Agreement with incentives was mixed (ranging from 34% to 46%) among a representative sample of 1144 British adults. Mean agreement score was highest for a free breast pump, and lowest for incentives for smoking abstinence after birth. More women disagreed with shopping vouchers than men. Those with lower levels of education disagreed more with smoking cessation incentives and a breast pump. Those aged 44 or under agreed more with all incentive strategies compared with those aged 65 and over, particularly provider targets for smoking cessation. Non-white ethnic groups agreed particularly with breastfeeding incentives. Current smokers with previous stop attempts and respondents who had breast fed children agreed with providing vouchers for the respective behaviours. Up to £40/month vouchers for behaviour change were acceptable (>85%).
Women and the less educated were more likely to disagree, but men and women of childbearing age to agree, with incentives designed for their benefit. Trials evaluating reach, impact on health inequalities and ethnic groups are required prior to implementing incentive interventions.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC4120368  PMID: 25037645
Preventive Medicine; PUblic Health; Social Medicine
13.  Advance telephone calls ahead of reminder questionnaires increase response rate in non-responders compared to questionnaire reminders only: The RECORD phone trial 
Trials  2014;15:13.
Postal questionnaires are simple and economical for collecting outcome data for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) but are prone to non-response. In the RECORD trial (a large pragmatic publicly funded RCT in UK) non-responders were sent a reminder and another questionnaire at 1 year, of which 40% were returned. In subsequent years we investigated the effect of an advance telephone call to non-responders on responses rate to reminder questionnaires and the next questionnaire 4 months later.
Non-responders to annual questionnaires were randomised to receive a telephone call from the trial office ahead of the reminder questionnaire in addition to the usual reminder schedule (n = 390) or to a control group that received the usual reminder schedule only (n = 363). The primary outcome was response to the reminder questionnaire within 21 days; secondary outcomes were response to a questionnaire 4 months later; completeness of quality of life instruments; and the number of participants declining further follow-up. Results are presented as odds ratios from a logistic regression intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis and then percentage difference and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for both ITT and average treatment effect on the treated (ATT) analyses.
The proportions that responded were 67.8% (265/390) in the intervention group compared to 62.5% (227/363) in the control group. The ITT estimate was a 5.4% increase (95% CI −1.4 to 12.2). Four months later percentages responding were 51.8% (202) and 42.7% (155). The ITT estimate was a 9.1% increase (95% CI 2.0 to 16.2). In the intervention group 12.3% (48/390) of participants were not telephoned because questionnaires were returned before the scheduled telephone call. ATT estimates adjusting for this were 6.2% (95% CI −1.6 to 14.0) and 10.4% (95% CI 2.2 to 18.5), respectively.
The telephone call resulted in a slight increase in response to the reminder questionnaire, however at 4 months later the proportion in the telephoned group responding was greater. This study suggests that pre-notification telephone calls may only be worthwhile if further questionnaires are to be sent out soon after reminder questionnaires.
Trial registration
Current Clinical Trials ISRCTN51647438
PMCID: PMC3895819  PMID: 24401173
Telephone reminders; Postal questionnaires; Response rates; Average treatment effect on the treated
20.  Clinical stakeholders’ opinions on the use of selective decontamination of the digestive tract in critically ill patients in intensive care units: an international Delphi study 
Critical Care  2013;17(6):R266.
Selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) is a prophylactic antibiotic regimen that is not widely used in practice. We aimed to describe the opinions of key ‘stakeholders’ about the validity of the existing evidence base, likely consequences of implementation, relative importance of their opinions in influencing overall practice, likely barriers to implementation and perceptions of the requirement for further research to inform the decision about whether to embark on a further large randomised controlled trial.
This was a Delphi study informed by comprehensive framework of possible determinants of health professionals’ behaviour to study Critical Care practice in four countries. There were four key stakeholder participant groups including ICU physicians, pharmacists, clinical leads, and clinical microbiologists/ infectious disease physicians. Round one comprised participant interviews and Rounds two and three were online questionnaires using Delphi method.
In this study, 141 participants were recruited of whom 82% were retained. Participants rated themselves as knowledgeable about SDD. Antibiotic resistance was identified as the most important issue. SDD was seen as a low clinical priority but few participants reported strong opposition. There was moderate agreement that research to date has not adequately addressed concerns about antibiotic resistance and lacks generalizability. Participants indicated equipoise with regard to benefits and harms of SDD, and indicated strong support for a further randomised trial.
Clinicians have clinical equipoise about the effectiveness of SDD. Future research requires longer follow up to assess antibiotic resistance as well as greater validity/generalizability to provide definitive answers on the effectiveness of decontamination and effects on antibiotic resistance. SDD was regarded as not being a high clinical priority, which may limit future trial participation. These results have identified that further large randomised controlled trial of SDD in critical care is both warranted and appropriate.
PMCID: PMC4056354  PMID: 24207137
21.  Mortality and quality of life in the five years after severe sepsis 
Critical Care  2013;17(2):R70.
Severe sepsis is associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality, placing a high burden on healthcare resources. We aimed to study outcomes in the five years after severe sepsis.
This was a cohort study using data from a prospective audit in 26 adult ICUs in Scotland. Mortality was measured using clinical databases and quality of life using Short Form 36 (SF-36) at 3.5 and 5 years after severe sepsis.
A total of 439 patients were recruited with a 58% mortality at 3.5 years and 61% mortality at 5 years. A total of 85 and 67 patients responded at 3.5 and 5 years follow-up, respectively. SF-36 physical component score (PCS) was low compared to population controls at 3.5 years (mean 41.8 (SD 11.8)) and at 5 years (mean 44.8 (SD 12.7)). SF-36 mental component score (MCS) was slightly lower than population controls at 3.5 years (mean 47.7 (SD 14.6)) and at 5 years after severe sepsis (mean 48.8 (SD 12.6)). The majority of patients were satisfied with their current quality of life (QOL) (80%) and all patients would be willing to be treated in an ICU again if they become critically ill despite many having unpleasant memories (19%) and recall (29%) of ICU events.
Patients with severe sepsis have a high ongoing mortality after severe sepsis. They also have a significantly lower physical QOL compared to population norms but mental QOL scores were only slightly below population norms up to five years after severe sepsis. All survivors would be willing to be treated in an ICU again if critically ill. Mortality and QOL outcomes were broadly similar to other critically ill cohorts throughout the five years of follow-up.
PMCID: PMC4057306  PMID: 23587132
22.  Explaining clinical behaviors using multiple theoretical models 
In the field of implementation research, there is an increased interest in use of theory when designing implementation research studies involving behavior change. In 2003, we initiated a series of five studies to establish a scientific rationale for interventions to translate research findings into clinical practice by exploring the performance of a number of different, commonly used, overlapping behavioral theories and models. We reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the methods, the performance of the theories, and consider where these methods sit alongside the range of methods for studying healthcare professional behavior change.
These were five studies of the theory-based cognitions and clinical behaviors (taking dental radiographs, performing dental restorations, placing fissure sealants, managing upper respiratory tract infections without prescribing antibiotics, managing low back pain without ordering lumbar spine x-rays) of random samples of primary care dentists and physicians. Measures were derived for the explanatory theoretical constructs in the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Illness Representations specified by the Common Sense Self Regulation Model (CSSRM). We constructed self-report measures of two constructs from Learning Theory (LT), a measure of Implementation Intentions (II), and the Precaution Adoption Process. We collected data on theory-based cognitions (explanatory measures) and two interim outcome measures (stated behavioral intention and simulated behavior) by postal questionnaire survey during the 12-month period to which objective measures of behavior (collected from routine administrative sources) were related. Planned analyses explored the predictive value of theories in explaining variance in intention, behavioral simulation and behavior.
Response rates across the five surveys ranged from 21% to 48%; we achieved the target sample size for three of the five surveys. For the predictor variables, the mean construct scores were above the mid-point on the scale with median values across the five behaviors generally being above four out of seven and the range being from 1.53 to 6.01. Across all of the theories, the highest proportion of the variance explained was always for intention and the lowest was for behavior. The Knowledge-Attitudes-Behavior Model performed poorly across all behaviors and dependent variables; CSSRM also performed poorly. For TPB, SCT, II, and LT across the five behaviors, we predicted median R2 of 25% to 42.6% for intention, 6.2% to 16% for behavioral simulation, and 2.4% to 6.3% for behavior.
We operationalized multiple theories measuring across five behaviors. Continuing challenges that emerge from our work are: better specification of behaviors, better operationalization of theories; how best to appropriately extend the range of theories; further assessment of the value of theories in different settings and groups; exploring the implications of these methods for the management of chronic diseases; and moving to experimental designs to allow an understanding of behavior change.
PMCID: PMC3500222  PMID: 23075284
23.  Using shared goal setting to improve access and equity: a mixed methods study of the Good Goals intervention in children’s occupational therapy 
Access and equity in children’s therapy services may be improved by directing clinicians’ use of resources toward specific goals that are important to patients. A practice-change intervention (titled ‘Good Goals’) was designed to achieve this. This study investigated uptake, adoption, and possible effects of that intervention in children’s occupational therapy services.
Mixed methods case studies (n = 3 services, including 46 therapists and 558 children) were conducted. The intervention was delivered over 25 weeks through face-to-face training, team workbooks, and ‘tools for change’. Data were collected before, during, and after the intervention on a range of factors using interviews, a focus group, case note analysis, routine data, document analysis, and researchers’ observations.
Factors related to uptake and adoptions were: mode of intervention delivery, competing demands on therapists’ time, and leadership by service manager. Service managers and therapists reported that the intervention: helped therapists establish a shared rationale for clinical decisions; increased clarity in service provision; and improved interactions with families and schools. During the study period, therapists’ behaviours changed: identifying goals, odds ratio 2.4 (95% CI 1.5 to 3.8); agreeing goals, 3.5 (2.4 to 5.1); evaluating progress, 2.0 (1.1 to 3.5). Children’s LoT decreased by two months [95% CI −8 to +4 months] across the services. Cost per therapist trained ranged from £1,003 to £1,277, depending upon service size and therapists’ salary bands.
Good Goals is a promising quality improvement intervention that can be delivered and adopted in practice and may have benefits. Further research is required to evaluate its: (i) impact on patient outcomes, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and (ii) transferability to other clinical contexts.
PMCID: PMC3444894  PMID: 22898191
24.  Do incentives, reminders or reduced burden improve healthcare professional response rates in postal questionnaires? two randomised controlled trials 
Healthcare professional response rates to postal questionnaires are declining and this may threaten the validity and generalisability of their findings. Methods to improve response rates do incur costs (resources) and increase the cost of research projects. The aim of these randomised controlled trials (RCTs) was to assess whether 1) incentives, 2) type of reminder and/or 3) reduced response burden improve response rates; and to assess the cost implications of such additional effective interventions.
Two RCTs were conducted. In RCT A general dental practitioners (dentists) in Scotland were randomised to receive either an incentive; an abridged questionnaire or a full length questionnaire. In RCT B non-responders to a postal questionnaire sent to general medical practitioners (GPs) in the UK were firstly randomised to receive a second full length questionnaire as a reminder or a postcard reminder. Continued non-responders from RCT B were then randomised within their first randomisation to receive a third full length or an abridged questionnaire reminder. The cost-effectiveness of interventions that effectively increased response rates was assessed as a secondary outcome.
There was no evidence that an incentive (52% versus 43%, Risk Difference (RD) -8.8 (95%CI −22.5, 4.8); or abridged questionnaire (46% versus 43%, RD −2.9 (95%CI −16.5, 10.7); statistically significantly improved dentist response rates compared to a full length questionnaire in RCT A. In RCT B there was no evidence that a full questionnaire reminder statistically significantly improved response rates compared to a postcard reminder (10.4% versus 7.3%, RD 3 (95%CI −0.1, 6.8). At a second reminder stage, GPs sent the abridged questionnaire responded more often (14.8% versus 7.2%, RD −7.7 (95%CI −12.8, -2.6). GPs who received a postcard reminder followed by an abridged questionnaire were most likely to respond (19.8% versus 6.3%, RD 8.1%, and 9.1% for full/postcard/full, three full or full/full/abridged questionnaire respectively). An abridged questionnaire containing fewer questions following a postcard reminder was the only cost-effective strategy for increasing the response rate (£15.99 per response).
When expecting or facing a low response rate to postal questionnaires, researchers should carefully identify the most efficient way to boost their response rate. In these studies, an abridged questionnaire containing fewer questions following a postcard reminder was the only cost-effective strategy. An increase in response rates may be explained by a combination of the number and type of contacts. Increasing the sampling frame may be more cost-effective than interventions to prompt non-responders. However, this may not strengthen the validity and generalisability of the survey findings and affect the representativeness of the sample.
PMCID: PMC3508866  PMID: 22891875
25.  Process evaluation for the FEeding Support Team (FEST) randomised controlled feasibility trial of proactive and reactive telephone support for breastfeeding women living in disadvantaged areas 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e001039.
To assess the feasibility, acceptability and fidelity of a feeding team intervention with an embedded randomised controlled trial of team-initiated (proactive) and woman-initiated (reactive) telephone support after hospital discharge.
Participatory approach to the design and implementation of a pilot trial embedded within a before-and-after study, with mixed-method process evaluation.
A postnatal ward in Scotland.
Women initiating breast feeding and living in disadvantaged areas.
Quantitative data: telephone call log and workload diaries. Qualitative data: interviews with women (n=40) with follow-up (n=11) and staff (n=17); ward observations 2 weeks before and after the intervention; recorded telephone calls (n=16) and steering group meetings (n=9); trial case notes (n=69); open question in a telephone interview (n=372). The Framework approach to analysis was applied to mixed-method data.
Main outcome measures
Quantitative: telephone call characteristics (number, frequency, duration); workload activity. Qualitative: experiences and perspectives of women and staff.
A median of eight proactive calls per woman (n=35) with a median duration of 5 min occurred in the 14 days following hospital discharge. Only one of 34 control women initiated a call to the feeding team, with women undervaluing their own needs compared to others, and breast feeding as a reason to call. Proactive calls providing continuity of care increased women's confidence and were highly valued. Data demonstrated intervention fidelity for woman-centred care; however, observing an entire breast feed was not well implemented due to short hospital stays, ward routines and staff–team–woman communication issues. Staff pragmatically recognised that dedicated feeding teams help meet women's breastfeeding support needs in the context of overstretched and variable postnatal services.
Implementing and integrating the FEeding Support Team (FEST) trial within routine postnatal care was feasible and acceptable to women and staff from a research and practice perspective and shows promise for addressing health inequalities.
Trial registration
ISRCTN27207603. The study protocol and final report is available on request.
Article summary
Article focus
To use a participatory approach to design, deliver and implement a feeding support team intervention integrated into routine postnatal ward care and to deliver a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of proactive and reactive telephone support for breast feeding for up to 14 days after hospital discharge for women living in more disadvantaged areas.
To use a mixed qualitative and quantitative methods process evaluation to assess the study acceptability, feasibility and intervention fidelity from the perspectives of women and National Health Service staff.
To inform the design of a future definitive RCT.
Key messages
Women living in disadvantaged areas are unlikely to initiate calls for help with breast feeding and proactive telephone calls may help to counteract the inverse care law.
Women undervalue both breast feeding and their own needs compared with the needs of others as a reason to ask for help in the context of overstretched maternity services.
A caring, reassuring woman-centred communication style with continuity of care from hospital to home was valued and increased women's confidence.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The participatory approach embedding a rigorous RCT within a before-and-after cohort study with mixed-methods data to evaluate implementation processes and costs are strengths that will enable us to design a feasible and acceptable definitive trial.
The contribution of the personal characteristics and skills of the feeding team to the intervention was important and may be challenging to replicate.
The low number of women who reported having an entire breast feed observed is a limitation and warrants further investigation.
More research is required before feeding teams and proactive calls are widely implemented as there are likely to be unintended consequences to such an organisational change in postnatal care.
PMCID: PMC3341595  PMID: 22535794

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