Bristol-led childhood eczema study awarded RCGP Research Paper of the Year


University of Bristol-led research comparing the effectiveness and safety of different types of moisturiser for childhood eczema has won the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research Paper of the Year Award 2022.

The research project, and its development, was supported by the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (BNSSG ICB), and led by Matthew Ridd, a GP in Portishead (North Somerset) and Professor of Primary Care at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol. The award was announced at the RCGP Conference in Glasgow on 19 October.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)-funded ‘Best Emollients for Eczema (BEE)’ clinical trial compared lotions, creams, gels and ointments used to treat childhood eczema. The trial found no difference in the effectiveness or safety between the four emollient (moisturiser) types, leading the authors to conclude that “the right moisturiser for children is the one that they like to use.”

The study, the first in the world to compare different types of moisturiser directly, highlighted the importance of patient education and choice when deciding which moisturiser to use for children with childhood eczema. The findings were published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health in May 2022.

The five-year study involved over 500 children and their parents, recruited from 77 GP practices across England. It was a partnership with the Universities of Nottingham and Southampton and with support from Bristol Trials Centre, UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network, and BNSSG ICB.

Professor Matthew Ridd, said:

“I am delighted that our unique study has received this award.  It is an opportunity to share the key messages that all types were similarly effective. Localized skin reactions were also common with all types. Previously, opinion was that ointments are more effective and less likely to cause irritation.  However, ‘one size does not fit all’ and what suits people varies.  Prescribers need to offer choice and educate on patients how to use emollients as well as what to use.”

Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, Professor of General Practice Research at Keele University and Chair of the RCGP RPY, said:

“This paper was judged by the RPY panel to be the overall winner of the award because the trial results are so relevant to children with eczema, their families and primary care clinicians, making decisions with parents about management of a child’s eczema. The paper speaks to the need for shared decision-making in managing this common condition.”

BNSSG ICB has supported the BEE Trial since it’s development work in 2010, supporting the earlier feasibility project known as COMET. The ICB supported the BEE trial throughout the grant application, leading on contracts and financial management, as well as the management of the project as part of the ICB’s overall research portfolio.

The ICB had a role in advocacy of the project to other health systems across the country and the NIHR.

About the Research Paper of the Year Award

The RCGP Research Paper of the Year Award, gives recognition to an individual or group of researchers who have undertaken and published an exceptional piece of research relating to general practice or primary care. There are three categories: Clinical Research, Health Services Research (including Implementation and Public Health) and Medical Education with relevance to Primary Care. Papers are scored on the criteria of originality, impact, contribution to the reputation of general practice, scientific approach and presentation.

There were 59 eligible submissions for the 2022 award (made in 2023). Professor Ridd’s paper was both overall winner and winner in the Clinical Research category.

Find out more about the BEE Study

Visit the study website

Watch the video summary

Download the ‘Decision Aid’ to help decide which type of moisturiser to use

Read the policy briefing