Charlotte Davies is a PhD student in health economics at the School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice at the University of East Anglia
What does your work involve?
I'm an academic researcher in health economics. My work primarily uses large national data-sets, surveys and existing literature to investigate economic questions related to the prostheses (artificial joints) used in total hip replacement surgery. The work involves identifying hypotheses (questions which need to be answered), researching what's already known and using econometrics techniques (statistical tools for economists) to analyse the data.
How long has Arthritis Research UK been funding you?
I've recently completed a 3-year PhD in health economics. My research for Arthritis Research UK began in July 2011 and will be completed in July 2014.
What’s the most important thing you've found out in the past 12 months? Why?
The work for my PhD leads into the research I'll undertake funded by Arthritis Research UK. I'm currently exploring whether the brand of hip prosthesis implanted by surgeons varies according to where patients live or what type of hospital they have their surgery in. In the past 12 months I've also researched whether we can assess which hip prosthesis is the most cost-effective for a particular patient.
What do you hope or expect to achieve as a result of your Arthritis Research UK funding?
The ultimate aim of the research is to inform current NHS policy so that patients receive the best-quality implant given the constraints of the budget. This will involve a range of factors which will be considered. In addition to the clinical effectiveness of the prosthesis itself, there are benefits from encouraging new developments and take-up of newer prostheses if we're to improve their quality. Investigation of the manufacturers and whether anti-competitive behaviour exists is also vital to assess whether the NHS has access to the best-quality range of implants at the appropriate price. Assessment of the way hospitals are paid is also required if that policy is to be in the best interest of all parties: patient, hospital and manufacturer.
What do you do in a typical day?
I'm fortunate enough to work independently on my research. I usually split the day up into data analysis using spreadsheets and statistical packages, and writing-up or reading. I'm also a member of the Health Economics Group (HEG) at UEA, which involves attending regular meetings. I also undertake some undergraduate seminar teaching to economics students at the UEA.
What's your greatest research achievement?
To date, I would say that my greatest research achievement is being awarded the fellowship funding from Arthritis Research UK. It's given me a unique opportunity to research an area which I feel passionately about and one which I feel has been overlooked.
Why did you choose to do this work?
Although work on health policy related to clinical areas is already carried out within the UK, there's been little research outside North America using the techniques I intend to use for this research on joint replacement surgery.
Do you ever think about how your work can help people with arthritis?
One of the reasons that I chose to carry out health economics research is because I believe very strongly that I'd like to have a direct impact on users of the NHS. My PhD work has increased my awareness of the increasing number of arthritis sufferers in the UK and particularly the fact that for those suffering with end-stage arthritis of the hip, surgery really is the only effective treatment. As the population continues to age, demand for this type of surgery will also rise, which I believe will have a significant implication for the health system, especially in the current climate, in terms of how it manages this rising cost.
What would you do if you weren’t a researcher?
I'm a mum to a very busy 6-year-old and I can never have enough time to spend with her, so I'd probably take more time to do things like baking, riding our bikes and going on holidays together. In reality, I'm extremely happy to be able to work in academia and can't really see myself in any other role. No other job would give me the opportunity to research areas which I'm so enthused about with the flexibility and support I receive.
A lot of my time is taken up with the school run, reading and trips to the park. My daughter, boyfriend and I make the most of weekend with trips to the North Norfolk coast. I also manage to fit in doing some yoga, which provides a good balance for the hectic life I seem to lead, and I diligently follow my passion for Arsenal.
This article first appeared in Arthritis Today Winter 2011, issue 151.
Read more form this issue.