Tag: Research

Making a difference to emergency care

Making a difference to emergency care

Professor Jonathan Benger wears many hats and works long hours. He is a consultant in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of a Bristol hospital, overseeing junior doctors and attending to patients. He also works for the South Western Ambulance Service (he helped to found the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity), and is involved with policy and strategy for NHS England. The rest of his seven-day working week involves one and a half days’ research at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Over the past decade, Benger has helped establish UWE Bristol as a focus for emergency and critical care research, particularly around pre-hospital care. As a result, his and his colleagues’ academic work has a genuine impact on what is going on in the real world and improves the health of individuals.

Managing a patient’s airway after a cardiac arrest

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Professor Jonathan Benger

What work is he most proud of so far? The research study Airways-2, a collaboration with UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol’s Clinical Trials & Evaluation Unit, on how to manage a patient’s airway in the early stages of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Some 60,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating suddenly) outside of hospital in the UK every year, and one of the internationally recognised unanswered questions about this condition is how best to manage the patient’s airway. “Historically we’ve put a breathing tube in the patient’s windpipe, but some data suggests it might be harmful to do so at an early stage, and it is unclear why,” says Professor Benger. Newer devices sit at the back of the throat and provide oxygen, so he and his colleagues are testing the two alternatives to see which approach works best.

“This is a huge trial that people said couldn’t be done because it’s so hard to deliver,” he says, but the researchers first secured a quarter of a million pounds to carry out a feasibility study, before receiving a further £2m to conduct the full trial. This means that as many as half of all patients who have a cardiac arrest out of hospital in some areas of England are likely to end up in the study. The researchers will publish results in 2018, and these could have a huge impact internationally. The Professor believes his team will answer the question of how best to treat cardiac arrest victims at the scene in a way that is likely to change the guidelines for resuscitation worldwide.

Redesigning ambulances for greater efficiency

Another research project close to Benger’s heart is his involvement in the redesign of the interior of ambulances currently used in the UK. Over the years, paramedics have gradually needed more material in the emergency vehicle, with treatment frequently taking place in the ambulance itself. When paramedics are providing care in situ, time can be at a premium and an efficient configuration of medical instruments and drugs can save time, and reduce the risk of an infection spreading.

Professor Benger and his colleagues therefore teamed up with the Royal College of Art to design a new ambulance from scratch. The challenge was to create something within limited space that maximises capacity for treatment and optimises layout. To do this, the researchers ran scenarios in the ambulance to observe how paramedics treated patients (who for this study, were actors). “We redesigned the ambulance and then got another set of paramedics to come in and see how they used the space differently,” says Benger. The team also looked at the spread of contamination around the vehicle using a dye and showed how an efficient layout with dressings and other equipment close at hand, could reduce the spread of bacteria.

Building an ambulance demonstrator provided the team with a springboard to secure funding from the EU to work on a European-wide project. The aim now is to feed this into ambulance design across Europe, encourage mass production and, therefore, bring unit cost down (in England each ambulance currently costs the NHS up to £60,000). Thanks to this ongoing research, the service has already seen some improvements in joint procurement of ambulances in the UK. Other incorporated suggestions from the team’s work include ambulance services placing stretcher trolleys in the middle of their vehicles, which means greater paramedic mobility and access to the patient. “Fewer people going to hospital because you have delivered more treatment at the scene is good for the system,” says Professor Benger.  “If it’s a safer ambulance, then there are lower risks of picking up infections too.”

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KTP Success Story: West Technology Systems

The collaboration between West Technology and UWE Bristol is a fantastic example of the University’s involvement in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. Since West Technology recruited a graduate through the programme, sales of its fingerprint-detection machines have gone through the roof. Managing Director Ian Harris also says the KTP further boosted the company’s credibility in the forensics world.

Peer pressure beyond the classroom: how social media and online games affect self-image

Peer pressure beyond the classroom: how social media and online games affect self-image

Today social media, especially Facebook, plays a big part in many of our lives. As well as providing a platform for online interaction with others, reading news and seeing an odd video about kittens, it is also shown to affect how we view ourselves – often in a negative way.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Amy Slater works at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), the world’s largest group of psychologists working on appearance and body image. One area Amy looks at is how social media and the internet can affect body image concerns, especially for adolescents and young girls.

Social media: taking peer pressure beyond the classroom

With regard to older age groups, Amy has investigated what it is about social media that is detrimental to self-image in young adults by observing what they do online. By setting up a research page on Facebook and asking the 200 participating 18 and 19-year-olds to ‘friend’ her, she was able to monitor their online behaviour.

Interestingly, the research gave rise to both expected and unexpected conclusions.  For Amy, it is unsurprising that young people spend so much time on social media – often two to three hours per day. What surprises her is the extent users are invested in social media like Facebook.

Before the advent of user-generated content, it was traditional media, press and parents that influenced adolescents. However, social media appears to combine a traditional media element (with advertisements and idealised images of celebrities) with a peer-driven environment (with the opportunity for interaction and feedback). This could go towards explaining why it may be damaging for body image.

The problem is that while adolescents certainly take heed of comments at school, this environment used to end when they left the classroom. Now, young adults are on social media out of school hours and this perpetuates a forum for potentially harming conversations to continue. The researcher says her suspicion is that this continual access could potentially heighten damage to self-image.

The positive side of social media

Of course there are some positives in social media, says Amy. It has transformed what we traditionally perceive as media, except that we generate it ourselves. The media has often presented a very narrow view of what it considers as ‘ideal’ in life, with this ideal unrealistic and unattainable for most. Social media, on the other hand, offers the opportunity for increased diversity in what we see. Vloggers (video bloggers), for instance, have become hugely popular especially as these are ordinary people, and users appear to like this authenticity.

Even very young affected

Amy, who is a practising child psychologist, explains that poor body image can lead to reduced self-esteem, depression, poorer eating habits and unhealthy practices. Research shows the age at which females experience body image concerns has steadily lowered since the 1980s, when initial findings found it was mostly adult women who were discontent with their bodies. Later on, this negative body image was shown to exist among adolescents then, worryingly, in some girls as young as six.

Another part of Amy’s research looks at the sexualisation of females in online games. Along with UWE Bristol’s Dr Emma Halliwell, she has conducted a study on the impact of playing internet games on young girls’ body image and career aspirations. They have found that some easily-available games on the web, such as Dream Date Dress-Up often made girls aged eight to nine express a desire to be thinner immediately after playing.

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Centre for Appearance Research at Appearance Matters 7 (Dr Slater pictured 2nd from left)

The Centre for Appearance Research strives to make a real difference to the lives of people with appearance-related concerns both in the UK and across the world. Click here to find out more about its activities and events.