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Summary

Background  Eczema is a common condition, yet there are uncertainties regarding many frequently used treatments. Knowing which of these uncertainties matter to patients and clinicians is important, because they are likely to have different priorities from those of researchers and funders.

Objectives  To identify the uncertainties in eczema treatment that are important to patients who have eczema, their carers and the healthcare professionals (HCPs) who treat them.

Methods  An eczema Priority Setting Partnership was established, including patients, HCPs and researchers. Eczema treatment uncertainties were gathered from patients and clinicians, and then prioritized in a transparent process, using a methodology advocated by the James Lind Alliance.

Results  In the consultation stage 493 participants (including 341 patients/carers) made 1070 submissions, of which 718 were uncertainties relating to the treatment of eczema. Treatment uncertainties with more than one submission were grouped into 52 ‘indicative uncertainties’, which were then ranked by 514 participants (including 399 patients/carers). The top 14 treatment uncertainties were prioritized for research. The first four were common to patients/carers and HCPs (shared uncertainties): (i) the best and safest way of using topical steroids (including frequency of application, potency, length of time, alternation with other topical treatments and age limits); (ii) the long-term safety of topical steroids; (iii) the role of food allergy tests; and (iv) the most effective and safe emollients in treating eczema. The remaining 10 of the top 14 uncertainties comprised the next five highest ranked uncertainties for patients and the next five highest ranked uncertainties for HCPs. At a workshop involving 40 participants (patients, HCPs and researchers), shared uncertainties were formulated into possible research questions.

Conclusions  The top 14 treatment uncertainties around the treatment of eczema provide guidance for researchers and funding bodies to ensure that future research answers questions that are important to both clinicians and patients.