Five minutes with . . . Mel Calvert

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 12 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4637
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. London

The Birmingham University professor talks about putting patients at the heart of health research

“The Centre for Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) Research at the University of Birmingham was launched in November 2016. Although Birmingham has led research in this area for a number of years, the new centre reflects Birmingham Health Partners’ commitment to building capacity and promoting multidisciplinary research in this area. The centre has over 70 members, including methodologists, trialists, and clinicians, working with our patient partners and international collaborators.

“We’re making sure that patients are at the heart of the centre—they’re on the executive board and have helped shape our strategy and training programmes.

“The centre aims to optimise the use of PROs in clinical trials and routine care to improve service delivery, enhance patient care and outcomes, and ensure that the patient perspective is at the heart of health research and NHS decision making.

“Our research programme is focused on three main areas. The first aims to develop best practice for PRO assessment in clinical trials to maximise patient benefit and reduce research waste. It focuses on issues such as selecting outcomes that matter to patients, designing a high quality PRO study, and analysing and reporting PRO data in a meaningful way, for example using reporting guidelines such as the CONSORT-PRO extension.1

“Clinical trialists recognise that the patient voice is important but there are still opportunities to optimise best practice. When we talk to people about the design of clinical trials we start by asking what their rationale for PRO assessment in the trial is. At what time points will data be collected and how can they ensure there’s no missing data? Crucially, how will the PRO trial data inform patient care?

“We’re also looking at how to maximise the benefit of PRO trial results and are considering important questions, such as how we can use PRO data to inform clinical guidelines and facilitate shared decision making.

“Our second workstream is focused on ensuring high quality PRO research in national and international clinical trials.

“And our third workstream focuses on the development of electronic PRO systems for use in routine clinical practice. We are currently piloting a system in Birmingham where patients with chronic kidney disease will flag symptoms through a patient portal, work led by Derek Kyte. The clinical team will review PRO results and contact patients if they’re concerned. We’re also thinking about how we can use this with our trauma patients and patients with multiple chronic conditions.

“This has the potential for timely intervention for those in greatest need and fewer hospital visits for stable patients.

“Because PROs are increasingly being used, it’s crucial that patients understand why they are completing them and who will be looking at their data. Our centre aims to tackle these issues and help promote efficient, ethical integration of PROs across multiple chronic conditions.

“We also want to build capacity for PRO research through training and fellowships, and we have a dedicated web based information resource.”


  • Mel Calvert is director of the Centre for Patient Reported Outcomes Research at the University of Birmingham. For further information see Follow the centre on Twitter @CPROR_UoB


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