Blog posts

Exploring Community-Based Care and Support Networks for Frail People

Many of us will need support as we age but who exactly provides that care? Dr David Sunkersing offers new insights into the support networks of frail people.


Frailty is a clinical syndrome, most common in older adults and associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes including falls, hospitalisation and reduced survival time. Many frail individuals therefore rely on family, friends, groups, healthcare professionals, carers and others to assist with their care and support needs and maintain both their independence and quality of life (a care and support network).

We proposed that understanding a frail individual’s care and support network from their perspective as well as the healthcare professionals involved, could improve patient experience and open opportunities for collaborative support. This could be through better understanding of the services, local authorities or people identified in the care and support networks, to help with planning and transfers of care (e.g. from a hospital setting into a community setting). Further, given reports of difficulty in verbally describing an individual’s social network, we used principles of social network analysis (SNA) to visually encapsulate the care and support networks.

Recruitment

We interviewed 16 patients and 16 associated healthcare professionals from a community-based NHS ‘Falls Group’ programme within North-West London. Individual (i.e., one on one) semi-structured interviews were conducted to establish an individual’s perceived network. We then used principles of SNA to help identify the structural characteristics of the networks; thematic analysis aided data interpretation.

Findings

Our study emphasised the importance of family, friends and healthcare professionals to an individual’s care and support network. We also highlighted the significance of informal carers and friends along with healthcare professionals in the care of individuals living with frailty. When we compared the networks, we found similarity in the makeup of ‘patient’ and ‘provider’ reported networks, but this was particularly evident of helper/carers in patients’ reports. These findings also highlight the multidisciplinary makeup of a care and support network, which could benefit healthcare professionals to support frail individuals.

The Future

We believe that our study paves the way for future research in this field. For example, given the contribution and importance of family/friends reported, an additional study could be conducted to understand the efforts made to contact, integrate and involve these groups of people (e.g., via NHS services) and to understand whether the contribution and importance of these groups remain consistent over time. We would also welcome research to investigate the reasoning behind the low number of carers/helpers reported in the care and support networks in this study.

David Sunkersing conducted his PhD in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, based at Chelsea and Westminster hospital.

 

Navigating LGBTQ+ discrimination in healthcare: where do we go from here?

As a chronically under-represented and under-researched group, the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ healthcare staff in the workplace are often neglected. Third-year medical student, Avani Ela Kaura, highlights why it’s imperative that we listen, address and support the specific needs of LGBTQ+ people.


Exploring how work-related stress affects LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals in my recent Letter to the Editor was greatly saddening, and a little dark. However, having been published in The BMJ  and reaching a wider audience, my hope is that awareness has been raised, granting volume to these silenced voices. This is especially important as the unique yet varied experiences of LGBTQ+ people are in-genuinely, or more frequently, not explored. Despite being at the dawn of my career, I am keen to pioneer a movement of change.

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Advancing diversity in the healthcare workforce

Brian Wang

When Imperial alumnus Dr Brian Wang founded In2MedSchool, he had one aim: to break down the barriers preventing students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursuing medicine. Brian shares his motivations for supporting the next generation of medics.


In the summer of 2022, before my final year of medical school, I had the opportunity to support the national efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic at Imperial College Healthcare Trust NHS hospitals. My experiences as a medical student and volunteer during this time kick-started my passion for advocating diversity within the healthcare workforce. Levelling the playing field and ensuring the diversity and representation of medical staff—in my mind at least—seems beneficial to the healthcare workforce and the communities that our healthcare system supports.

Today I am the founder of In2MedSchool, a charity that provides support for disadvantaged children with ambitions to study Medicine and healthcare-related degrees at university.

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Inspirational leadership matters: supporting the next generation of clinical academics

Dr Maddalena Ardissino

This festive period, Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.


The journey to becoming a clinical academic can be long and arduous, with many obstacles. Dr Maddalena Ardissino, from the National Heart and Lung Institute, reflects on her own experiences as a trainee and explains why mentorship is key to supporting the growth and development of young, aspiring clinical academics.

Almost exactly five years ago, I stood amongst a crowd of young academics at a poster session at the Intensive Care Society’s annual conference, experiencing a feeling of anxiety I’ve never known before or since. I was in my fifth year of medical school and standing in front of a group of excellent researchers who were about to listen to me give my first scientific presentation. It seemed unthinkable to me, at the time, to think that they might have the slightest interest in what I had to say.

Since then, my journey through clinical and academic training has been what I can only describe as an adventure. I quickly realised that there isn’t a single defined path for clinical academics, with each individual moulding a slightly different journey. When I look around at my fellow clinical academics at the National Heart and Lung Institute, however, there is one key feature that we all share: enthusiasm. And behind this feature there is one single, common theme: the support of a truly inspirational mentor.

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Setting up the Julia Anderson Training Programme: lessons learned

Clarissa Gardner

This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.

Clarissa Gardner, founder of the Julia Anderson Training Programme, shares insight into setting up the scheme and provides practical guidance for others on how to use the model within their own organisations. 


2020 was a strange year. We lived through a pandemic that took a huge toll on our economy, our mental wellbeing, and for some of us the lives of our loved ones. 2020 was also the year in which there was renewed interest in addressing social injustices that have impacted traditionally underserved communities across the world.

At Imperial College London, like many other academic institutions, there were many discussions being held about our history, curriculum, use of language to describe people, and the representation of students and staff of different backgrounds at various levels. (more…)

World AIDS Day: We have come a very long way but there is still much to do to protect those at risk

Professor Sarah Fidler

This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.

While HIV is no longer the death sentence that it once was, lifelong treatment is still required and there is no cure – yet. Professor Sarah Fidler from the Department of Infectious Disease discusses how a new type of HIV treatment holds promise as a longer-lasting alternative to current complex drug regimens.


Despite extraordinary political and medical advances, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, remains one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Since its discovery in 1983 by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France, 84 million people worldwide are estimated to have become HIV-positive and 40 million people have died from an HIV-related illness. Today, there are around 38 million people living with HIV globally, with 1.5 million new infections in 2021.

Advocacy and close collaboration between clinicians, scientists and the HIV-affected community has inspired and driven the research and drug development and access agenda. Without these close working relationships, the development of HIV treatments would have been markedly slower and many more lives would have been lost.

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Targeting both incretin receptors together for a new generation of diabetes therapies

Close up of woman's hands checking blood sugar level using glucose meter

Dr Alejandra Tomas, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, explores new and emerging incretin-based therapies for managing diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that has reached epidemic proportions, with millions of people dying or suffering from a myriad of associated complications. Given that cases are projected to increase worldwide over the coming decades – especially in low- and middle-income countries – there is an urgent need to develop and deploy effective treatments for the disease.

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Balancing academics and athletics as a student-athlete

Joaquin Bello

In August 2022, fifth-year Medical student, Joaquin Bello, and his twin brother, Javier Bello, made history as England’s first-ever Commonwealth Games beach volleyball medallists. Joaquin reflects on his journey to becoming a professional volleyball player, and the challenges of juggling academic studies with sports stardom.

This summer I won a bronze medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the culmination of many years of hard work whilst balancing my studies with training. While I hope my dual-career is far from over, I wanted to reflect on my journey so far and the lessons that I have learnt along the way.

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Food for thought: Experiences from Imperial’s Food Student Research Network Conference

Dr Aaron M. Lett, Director of the Food Student Research Network, providing a plenary talk and officially launching the Food Student Research Network.

Recognising the value of interdisciplinary learning, Imperial’s Food Student Research Network aims to bring together students from across the College’s faculties to enable the cross-fertilisation of ideas and research in fields relevant to food. Here, members reflect on the Network’s inaugural conference.

In September, Imperial’s Food Student Research Network hosted its first Annual Conference. Reflective of the ethos of the network, this conference was an event for students, led by students.

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How long is COVID-19 infectious? Opportunities and challenges in using real-world evidence

New York circa November 2020: Crowd of people walking on the street wearing masks during COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: blvdone / Shutterstock.com.

Providing the most comprehensive picture of COVID-19 infectiousness to date, recent research from Imperial College scientists offered new insights into how long people with COVID-19 are infectious for. Co-author, Dr Seran Hakki, outlines the challenges of collecting real-world evidence in the first-of-its-kind study.

In August, the ATACCC Study (The Assessment of Transmission and Contagiousness of COVID-19 in Contacts) published some of their findings in one of the world’s leading respiratory health journals, The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Our study was the first to use real-life evidence from naturally acquired infection to assess the duration of COVID-19 infectiousness, its correlation with symptom onset, and how this affects the accuracy of lateral flow tests.

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