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The Evidence Synthesis Working group (ESWG) is a collaboration of all nine primary care member departments of the School of Primary Care Research. In September, we held our annual meeting in Oxford at the end of our second year of funding.

The original group project aimed to deliver 18 reviews; the group's commitment to increasing capacity in evidence synthesis means we are now supporting the delivery of a further eleven reviews. So far, the ESWG, had 23 publications indexed in PubMed, including several high impact publications.

For example, Keele’s Richard Riley and colleagues published the key steps involved in systematic review and meta-analysis of prognostic factor, in the BMJ. Highlighting the need to identify evaluate and summarise prognostic factor studies and their findings.  Maria Panagioti from Manchester also in the BMJ published on the Prevalence, severity, and nature of preventable patient harm across medical care settings. The review included 70 studies involving 337,025 patients and reported that about one in 20 medical patients is exposed to preventable harms. Finally, Oxford’s Kamal Mahtani published a review in JAMA Internal Medicine, that found limited evidence for reducing dietary salt intake for improving outcomes in heart failure patients.

You can find more updates on the NIHR SPCR ESWG webpages. While there you can view the many published blog posts from the group (see, The Ethics of Social Prescribing, or The words we never said as two examples); and the links to the planned 18 reviews with there PROSPERO published protocols

The group has also developed a dedicated PPI strategy. Led by Anne Marie Boylan, the strategic plan - developed and reviewed by our PPI contributors and stakeholder representatives of the ESWG - involves four core elements:1. Oversight of review conduct and procedure 2. Appropriate involvement in each review 3. Reporting of involvement and 4. Development of prioritisation partnerships. Recently two workshops were co-delivered with our patient contributors at EBMLive – one seeking research ideas from patients, which received excellent participant feedback, and a second on stakeholder (professional) involvement.

The ESWG group has also been busy engaging in presenting, engaging stakeholders, and disseminating the findings of the review work.

The Service redesign in primary care theme (workstream 4) has launched a new programme of research dedicated to social prescribing that has led members of the ESWG teaming with the University of Oxford’s Gardens Libraries and Museums Division. Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. Members of this workstream, have also been working with the Kings Fund, who share an interest in social prescribing. One of our reviews has also been presented in the Houses of Parliament to an All-Party Parliamentary Group and led to a ministerial question directed to the Prime Minister at PMQs.

Finally, the ESWG has supported training and capacity development, and if you are interested in joining an existing ESWG review you can express an interest here, or if you want some advice then check out the Evidence Synthesis Advisory Service here.

In 2020 we are looking forward to building on our key objectives: providing training, and propagating best practice, in aspects of the more complex methods needed for evidence synthesis.

Carl Heneghan

Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine

Director of NIHR SPCR ESWG


Highlighted publications

A guide to systematic review and meta-analysis of prognostic factor studies. Riley RD, Moons KGM, Snell KIE, Ensor J, Hooft L, Altman DG, Hayden J, Collins GS, Debray TPA. BMJ. 2019 Jan 30;364:k4597. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k4597

Prevalence, severity, and nature of preventable patient harm across medical care settings: systematic review and meta-analysis. Panagioti M, Khan K, Keers RN, Abuzour A, Phipps D, Kontopantelis E, Bower P, Campbell S, Haneef R, Avery AJ, Ashcroft DM. BMJ. 2019 Jul 17;366:l4185. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l4185.

Reduced Salt Intake for Heart Failure: A Systematic Review. Mahtani KR, Heneghan C, Onakpoya I, Tierney S, Aronson JK, Roberts N, Hobbs FDR, Nunan D. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Dec 1;178(12):1693-1700. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4673.