by SPCR research fellow Helen Atherton.

I had the pleasure of being on the organising committee for the conference, held in the architecturally impressive Andrew Willes building on Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The weather did not disappoint, with beautiful dry and sunny weather greeting delegates arriving on the Wednesday – this boded well for the rest of the conference.

The conference kicked off with two presentations of distinction, from Frank Sullivan on Bells Palsy and Nadine Foster on Subacrominal Impingement syndrome, showcasing how the work we do in academic primary care is often directly relevant to practice. Then it was straight into the parallel sessions. A highlight for me was a presentation by Lesley Wye from Bristol on how commissioners use academic research in real-life decision making, with the reality being that they don’t, instead asking the person on the next desk what they think they should do…sobering findings for those of us hoping our research is making a difference.

Simon Stevens gave the first plenary session, catching us all whilst fresh and flattering us with talk of the importance of academic primary care. His views on the future for general practice split the audience; alternatives models of practice being deemed essential, but not necessarily popular amongst delegates.  After a session of quick fire elevator pitches we moved onto quiet reflection as Carolyn Chew-Graham gave the 2nd Helen Lester Memorial Lecture on making a difference for people with mental health problems. At the end of a packed afternoon it was time for a drink. In this case, with the dinosaurs at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, a beautiful building and an impressive setting for booze and dinosaur themed canapes. The drinks reception offered an opportunity to explore more of Oxford, even for those of us based here. It was my first time in the museum even after more than three years working in Oxford. The conference offers a great opportunity to catch up with people you might only see once or twice a year, and the reception didn’t disappoint. Though this was one occasion I could have happily ditched the commute home to continue the socialising.

Thursday promised an action packed programme, starting with Rhona Moss-Morris on medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), a controversial area. Rhona reminded us about the potential impact  of labelling people by presenting alternative terminologies that could be used instead of MUS, with the debate about this ongoing and not looking likely to be resolved anytime soon. The rest of the morning plenary session provided a showcase for some of primary care’s best academic researchers.  Felicity Goodyear-Smith came all the way from New Zealand to present her distinguished paper from the Australian Primary Health Care Research Conference and refreshingly admitted that it wasn’t the work she would have liked to win an award for, being a trial that had encountered methodological issues, though the beauty of her work was the lessons learnt in conducting a trial of a complex intervention. The Yvonne Carter Award for outstanding new researcher winner Clare Taylor presented her important work on ‘Heart Failure: a primary care problem’ and Sophie Park received a special commendation for her work.

A day of both parallel presentations and elevator pitches ensued, interspersed with coffee and lunch breaks that offered lively debate and chat, with a positive buzz around the quality and quantity of work presented at the conference. At the end of day those with energy left could go on a run around the sites of Oxford. I opted for a cup of tea and time to put my glamorous outfit into action.

The conference dinner did not disappoint. Drinks in the quad at Keble on a summer evening was classically Oxford, as was the four course meal, finished with Keble port and cheese for the full Oxford experience. Less formal but just as traditional was the after dinner disco, where many people danced the night away, including a certain head of department who was busting some moves…

Miraculously there was a full lecture theatre at 9am the next day, with the session offering an opportunity to reflect on the evening before, and consider multimorbidity in an engaging presentation by Bruce Guthrie. Not easy to hold a tired and emotional audience but he managed with aplomb, making us really think about multimorbidity and its relevance to our research.

After the plenary two more sessions followed, first up were the elevator pitches, which included three minutes from Trish Greenhalgh on research impact, fascinating enough to hear 60 minutes but nicely summarised in just 4 slides, and again making us think about where our research findings really end up having  an impact.

Before we knew it, it was time for the closing session. This provided a fantastic opportunity to award prizes for the best early careers presentation, the NAPCRG travel prizes and poster prizes. Edward Tyrell, NIHR in-practice fellow at Nottingham, won the NAPCRG early career travel prize for his presentation on ‘Changes in adolescent poisonings in the UK over the past 20 years: a population based cohort study.’ Richard Hobbs signed us off with thanks to all the people that made the conference possible, notably Sue Stewart of SAPC, and Susan Jebb who led the conference organising committee for Oxford. Hard to believe it is over for another year, but next time we hit Dublin, and I am looking forward to the Craic!


Contact Helen: helen.atherton@phc.ox.ac.uk

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