The University of Hertfordshire is leading a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded four-year study to improve how researchers, health and social care services can use existing data to improve the care and quality of life for care home residents, families and staff.
Over £2.2 million has been awarded for the study – Developing research resources and minimum data set for care homes’ adoption and use – which will address the need to develop robust systems that support how all the different services and individuals (e.g. care staff, NHS professionals, family, regulators, social services) work together for residents’ benefit.
The study will review how current health and social care systems work, what “good” looks like, explore the evidence on how to integrate data and test what a minimum dataset would need to be the key resource for all those working in and for care homes. The findings have the potential to deliver a step-change in how we understand the needs of the care home population. This could be a resource that supports the provision of high quality care across the country.
Claire Goodman, Professor of Health Care Research, NIHR Senior Investigator at the University of Hertfordshire and the lead investigator commented: “We rely on care homes to provide care and support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Care homes are valued partners to the NHS providing almost all our long-term care for frail older people. A more consistent approach is needed to support integrated working and ensure that planning for future needs of residents is based on the best evidence. By bringing together existing data systems, creating a minimum data set and further researching care home residents’ needs, we can make recommendations likely to improve residents’ quality of life.”
Claire Goodman continued: “Long-term continuing care for older people is principally provided by care homes, with approximately 420,000 people in England and Wales living in a care home. Residents and staff rely on the NHS for medical care and the role of social care is gaining recognition as an essential part of care provision for this ageing population. This underlines the need to develop reciprocal systems of working between the NHS and care homes. Our aim is to create new ways of working and doing research in and with care homes, so that the outputs benefit not only the researchers, but also the residents.”
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society’s, which is partnering with NIHR on the project, said: “We are delighted to be partners in this important project. The study will tackle a major unmet need and provide a greater understanding of how the care system as a whole can ensure people with dementia in care homes receive the best quality care.”
“Around 70% of people in care homes are living with dementia, so this study has the potential to change the lives of many thousands of people. There is a data revolution underway in healthcare and it’s vital that social care doesn’t get left behind. We know that dementia devastates lives, which is why projects such as this are so vital.”
The study, which is due to start in November 2019, will bring together 12 other institutions working collaboratively to develop reciprocal systems of working between the NHS and care homes that optimise current provision and research on its effectiveness.