Impact of health care professional training on adolescent hay fever: cluster randomised controlled trial of a complex intervention in primary care
Hammersley, Victoria Suzan
Background Hay fever is typically poorly managed, particularly in adolescents, in whom it is responsible for considerable morbidity and impairment in educational performance. Evidence-based training of professionals has the potential to improve outcomes, but it can be expensive and so warrants formal evaluation. This trial sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a training intervention for primary care-based health care professionals on adolescent disease-specific quality of life. Methods A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in UK general practices. Practices were centrally randomised to a short, intensive training course on the evidence-based management of hay fever (intervention arm) or distribution of guidelines (control arm). The primary outcome measure was the change in the validated Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire with Standardized Activities (RQLQ(S)) score in adolescents with hay fever between baseline and six weeks post-intervention (minimal clinically important difference = 0.5). Secondary outcome measures included health care professionals’ knowledge and confidence in managing hay fever, number of hay fever-related consultations, relevant treatments prescribed and symptom scores. Multi-level modelling using a random effects model was used to take account of between and within cluster variation, adjusting for strata, individual covariates and year of study. Results Thirty-eight general practices were randomised (20 in the intervention arm) and 246/341 patients (50.2% male, mean age 15 years) were included in the primary outcome analysis. Health care professionals’ self-assessed knowledge and confidence improved (prescribing/recommending treatment mean score 95% CI 1.4, 2.8), and the training was perceived to be of value. This did not however result in clinically or statistically significant improvements in RQLQ(S): -0.15, 95% CI -0.52 to +0.21. There were no differences in consultation frequency (95% CI -0.02, +0.63), treatments issued for hay fever (95% CI -0.24, +0.08) or symptom scores (95% CI - 1.03, +0.54). Conclusions Although attendance on this short, intensive hay fever training course was associated with professionals’ increased self-assessed confidence and understanding of the clinical management of hay fever, this did not translate into improvements in disease-specific quality of life or reduction in rhinitis symptoms in adolescents with hay fever.