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RCGP Research Paper of the Year award for the BATHE study

29 October 2019

Research showing that one of the most widely used treatments for childhood eczema is not helpful has been awarded the 2019 Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research Paper of the Year award.

The BATHE trial found that pouring emollient additives into the bath do not add any benefit over standard management. Standard management of childhood eczema includes soap avoidance, leave-on emollients and corticosteroid ointments.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme and led by Dr Miriam Santer at the University of Southampton in partnership with Dr Matthew Ridd at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care, Cardiff University and the University of Nottingham.

482 children from 96 general practices took part, making it by far the largest trial of emollient bath additives to date. Children were randomly allocated to two groups: one group was asked to use bath additives for a whole year and the other was asked not to use them for a whole year. Families completed short questionnaires weekly for the first 16 weeks, then every 4 weeks from 16 to 52 weeks.

There was no meaningful difference in eczema severity between the groups over the year. There was also no difference in the number of problems experienced with bathing, like stinging or redness following the bath, which affected a third of children in both groups.

Families of children with eczema are advised to continue to use leave-on emollient moisturisers and to avoid soap. This research has shown that pouring emollient bath additives into the bath water is very unlikely to offer extra benefit.

The award was announced at the RCGP’s annual primary care conference in Liverpool on 26 October.

Dr Ridd, co-author of the paper and Reader in Primary Health Care at the Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC), University of Bristol, said: “On behalf of the research team, the hundreds ofchildren and parents who took part in the study and the practice staff who supported it, I am delighted the BATHE study has received this recognition.”

The paper was published in the BMJ in May 2018.

Paper: Emollient bath additives for the treatment of childhood eczema (BATHE): multicentre pragmatic parallel group randomised controlled trial of clinical and cost effectiveness by Miriam Santer, Matthew J Ridd, Nick A Francis, Beth Stuart, Kate Rumsby, Maria Chorozoglou, Taeko Becque, Amanda Roberts, Lyn Liddiard, Claire Nollett, Julie Hooper, Martina Prude, Wendy Wood, Kim S Thomas, Emma Thomas-Jones, Hywel C Williams, Paul Little. BMJ. May 2018.

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About the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. It sits within Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching. Follow us on Twitter: @capcbristol.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support and would not have been possible without access to this data. The NIHR recognises and values the role of patient data, securely accessed and stored, both in underpinning and leading to improvements in research and care. 

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