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1.  Antimicrobial management and appropriateness of treatment of urinary tract infection in general practice in Ireland 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:108.
Background
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common bacterial infections in general practice and a frequent indication for prescription of antimicrobials. Increasing concern about the association between the use of antimicrobials and acquired antimicrobial resistance has highlighted the need for rational pharmacotherapy of common infections in general practice.
Methods
Management of urinary tract infections in general practice was studied prospectively over 8 weeks. Patients presenting with suspected UTI submitted a urine sample and were enrolled with an opt-out methodology. Data were collected on demographic variables, previous antimicrobial use and urine samples. Appropriateness of different treatment scenarios was assessed by comparing treatment with the laboratory report of the urine sample.
Results
A total of 22 practices participated in the study and included 866 patients. Bacteriuria was established for 21% of the patients, pyuria without bacteriuria for 9% and 70% showed no laboratory evidence of UTI. An antimicrobial agent was prescribed to 56% (481) of the patients, of whom 33% had an isolate, 11% with pyuria only and 56% without laboratory evidence of UTI. When taking all patients into account, 14% patients had an isolate identified and were prescribed an antimicrobial to which the isolate was susceptible. The agents most commonly prescribed for UTI were co-amoxyclav (33%), trimethoprim (26%) and fluoroquinolones (17%). Variation between practices in antimicrobial prescribing as well as in their preference for certain antimicrobials, was observed. Treatment as prescribed by the GP was interpreted as appropriate for 55% of the patients. Three different treatment scenarios were simulated, i.e. if all patients who received an antimicrobial were treated with nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim or ciprofloxacin only. Treatment as prescribed by the GP was no more effective than treatment with nitrofurantoin for all patients given an antimicrobial or treatment with ciprofloxacin in all patients. Prescribing cost was lower for nitrofurantoin. Empirical treatment of all patients with trimethoprim only was less effective due to the higher resistance levels.
Conclusions
There appears to be considerable scope to reduce the frequency and increase the quality of antimicrobial prescribing for patients with suspected UTI.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-108
PMCID: PMC3191331  PMID: 21967276
management; UTI; antimicrobial prescribing
2.  WestREN: a description of an Irish academic general practice research network 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:74.
Background
Primary care research networks have been established internationally since the 1960s to enable diverse practitioners to engage in and develop research and education and implement research evidence.
The newly established Western Research and Education Network (WestREN) is one such network consisting of a collaboration between the Discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway and 71 West of Ireland general practices. In September 2009 all member practices were issued with a questionnaire with two objectives: to describe the structure and characteristics of the member practices and to compare the results to the national profile of Irish general practice.
Methods
A postal survey was used followed by one written and one email reminder.
Results
A response rate of 73% (52/71) was achieved after two reminders.
Half of practices were in a rural location, one quarter located in an urban setting and another quarter in a mixed location.
Ninety-four per cent of general practitioners practice from purpose-built or adapted premises with under 6% of practices being attached to the general practitioner's residence. Over 96% of general practitioners use appointment systems with 58% using appointment only.
All practices surveyed were computerised, with 80% describing their practices as 'fully computerised'. Almost 60% of general practitioners are coding chronic diagnoses with 20% coding individual consultations. Twenty-five per cent of general practitioners were single-handed with the majority of practices having at least two general practitioners, and a mean number of general practitioners of 2.4. Ninety-two per cent of practices employed a practice nurse with 30% employing more than one nurse.
Compared to the national profile, WestREN practices appear somewhat larger, and more likely to be purpose-built and in rural areas. National trends apparent between 1982 and 1992, such as increasing computerisation and practice nurse availability, appear to be continuing.
Conclusions
WestREN is a new university-affiliated general practice research network in Ireland. Survey of its initial membership confirms WestREN practices to be broadly representative of the national profile and has provided us with valuable information on the current and changing structure of Irish general practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-74
PMCID: PMC2958962  PMID: 20925958
3.  General practitioner views about discussing sexual issues with patients with coronary heart disease: a national survey in Ireland 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:40.
Background
Sexual problems are common among people with coronary heart disease and can adversely affect patients' quality of life. GPs are ideally placed to deal with these problems. Research suggests that GPs are reluctant to address sexual problems but little is known about what currently takes place in practice. The aim of this study was to examine GPs' self-reported behaviour and attitudes to discussing sexual problems with people with coronary heart disease.
Method
Design: A cross-sectional survey which administered 230 postal questionnaires to a nationally representative, stratified random sample of GPs in the Republic of Ireland. GPs were asked about current practice, knowledge, awareness and confidence in dealing with sexual problems, barriers to addressing sexual problems, and about improving services in this area.
Results
Responses were available for 61 GPs (27% response rate). Seventy percent of GPs reported that they rarely or never discussed sexual problems with coronary patients. While all GPs believed addressing sexual problems was important, many GPs reported lacking awareness, knowledge and confidence in addressing sexual problems. The main barriers were lack of time, feeling the patient wasn't ready and lack of training in the area. GPs wanted more training and guidelines for practice.
Conclusions
There is currently no standardised protocol for GPs for dealing with sexual problems among coronary patients. Awareness of these issues appears to be low among GPs. Services could be improved by developing practice guidelines for brief, effective actions or assessments, providing training in the area and improving information resources and support services for referral.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-40
PMCID: PMC2886005  PMID: 20500836
4.  Research activity and capacity in primary healthcare: The REACH study: A survey 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:33.
Background
Despite increased investment in primary care research and development (R&D), the level of engagement of primary healthcare professionals with research remains poor. The aim of this study is to assess the level of research activity and capacity for research among primary healthcare professionals in a health authority of over one million people in a mixed urban/rural setting in the West of Ireland.
Methods
A questionnaire, incorporating the R+D Culture Index, was sent to primary healthcare professionals in the HSE Western Region. Baseline characteristics were analysed with the use of one-way ANOVA and Chi-square test and the dependence of R&D Culture Index score on all sixteen available covariates was examined using multiple regression and regression tree modelling.
Results
There was a 54% response rate to the questionnaire. Primary healthcare professionals appeared to have an interest in and awareness of the importance of research in primary care but just 15% were found to be research active in this study. A more positive attitude towards an R&D culture was associated with having had previous research training, being currently involved in research and with not being a general practitioner (GP) (p < 0.001), but much variability in the R&D culture index score remained unexplained.
Conclusion
Despite awareness of the importance of R&D in primary care and investment therein, primary healthcare professionals remain largely unengaged with the R&D process. This study highlights the issues that need to be addressed in order to encourage a shift towards a culture of R&D in primary care: lack of research training particularly in basic research skills and increased opportunities for research involvement. The use of the R&D Culture Index may enable groups to be identified that may be more research interested and can therefore be targeted in any future R&D strategy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-33
PMCID: PMC2684072  PMID: 19432990
5.  Responses to language barriers in consultations with refugees and asylum seekers: a telephone survey of Irish general practitioners 
BMC Family Practice  2008;9:68.
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-9-68
PMCID: PMC2637872  PMID: 19102735

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