Funding boost for long-term research collaborations

June 15, 2022

A new project aimed at fostering novel, sustainable partnerships between universities and care homes in the UK has received nearly £1.7m in funding from the NIHR Research Health Services and Care Delivery programme.

Care homes have particular challenges in doing and using research, many of which have been brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic research has the potential to play a crucial role in improving adult social care to meet the needs of those who use it, as well as their family and friends.

During this four-year-long project, the researchers will develop, implement and evaluate an approach called ‘Research Practice Partnerships’ in adult social care by establishing long-term collaborations between researchers and those working in social care. They are hoping to replicate the promising results already achieved in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. For example, a similar model in the Netherland (The Living Lab) has been running for nearly 25 years, pursuing a range of projects including an evaluation of innovative dementia care design, development of a pain assessment tool for people with dementia, and a large-scale European study focused on the transition from home care to nursing care.

These partnerships vary depending on local needs, but start with researchers and care home staff working together to identify shared priorities for the partnership.

The project is led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in partnership with the London School of Economics, Sheffield Hallam University, Research in Practice, the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Point of Care Foundation, Shaping Our Lives, and Walnut Care.

By enabling researchers and practitioners in adult social care to work more closely together through long-term partnerships, the research generated could be more useful and usable for those working to improve services and outcomes for care home residents.

Annette Boaz, Professor of Health and Social Care Policy at LSHTM, said, ‘Care homes are an integral part of social care in the UK. Many researchers are doing incredible work towards improving quality of life and care, but we believe by fostering strong connections between the researchers and those involved in social care day-to-day, this research will have even more of an impact on those using the care system.’

Three teams have been identified to establish partnerships with care homes based in Chester, Lancashire, and Newcastle, bringing together a range of people with experience in social care to design and test how effective these sites are at improving social care in the area. This includes people with lived experience of the adult social care system, social care providers, and researchers in the area. The partnerships will be supported by designers and experts in implementation, improvement, and evaluation.

One of the partnerships has been able to leverage additional resources because of its status as a research-practice partnership.

Using interviews, observing meetings, surveys, and other channels, the researchers aim to understand how the partnerships work and what difference they make to the experiences of those in social care, and how cost-effective they are.

They also hope to explore how this approach could be applied to other parts of the UK, and if it could be expanded to other areas of social care, such as at-home care.

This project is part of a cluster of six NIHR-funded research partnerships.  Led by the Kent Research Partnership, the six projects have secured additional funding to work with academic and social care partners to develop a cross-partnership online Social Care Research Resource Centre, in which all partnerships can share learning, resources, training materials, and offer joint opportunities to emerging social care research practitioners.  Researchers say that this sort of coordination is critical to making sure we make the most of the recent increase in investment in adult social care research.

Visit the NIHR website to discover the latest research projects for the social care sector.

In other news, access Social Care has published its annual State of the Nation report today, which reveals a staggering 229% increase in the number of social care needs assessment enquiries in the year 2021-22 compared to 2019-20.


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