NIHR publishes care home research collection

December 17, 2021

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) published its NIHR Evidence Collection this week, which explores recent NIHR-supported research findings around the care in care homes.

The NIHR funds research on the quality of care in care homes and how it can be improved. NIHR Evidence presents summaries of findings so that health and social care research can be used by the people who can act on it. Whether that’s patients and the public, commissioners or health and social care professionals.

This Collection provides examples of recently published research that could make a difference in the care setting. From exploiting new technologies, such as virtual quizzes, to tools and techniques to help care for people living with dementia. It also includes the perspectives of care home staff, public contributors and researchers who share their reactions to the research findings.

For example, The WHELD programme supports care home staff to deliver patient-centred interventions for residents with dementia. It seeks to reduce their reliance on antipsychotic drugs and uses social interaction, personalised activities and exercise to improve care. Training in person-centred care is included, along with antipsychotic review by GPs, social interaction, and exercise. Two ‘care staff champions’ at each home are trained to take simple measures such as talking to residents about their interests.

In a large clinical trial, WHELD improved quality of life for people with dementia. The programme reduced agitation and the overall burden of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression or aggression. WHELD was less expensive to deliver than usual care because it reduced the number of hospital and GP visits.

Earlier work in the OPTIMAL study underlined the importance to care homes of support from GPs and the wider healthcare system. Strong relationships and systematic input, such as training for care home staff make a critical difference. They improve the experience of both residents and staff, and reduce crisis admissions to hospital. In England, the Enhanced Health in Care Homes programme aims to improve collaborative working between care homes and wider health and social care services.

Candace Imison, Associate Director of Evidence and Dissemination at the NIHR, said, ‘The pandemic has brought the vital work of staff in care home homes into the spotlight. The complex needs of vulnerable older people can be challenging to manage.

‘The good news is that there is now a strong research evidence base to call upon. Our collection brings together some of the most important studies and provides practical suggestions to help those working in and managing care homes deliver the highest quality of care.’

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK Government.

Visit the NIHR Evidence website to read the Collection in full and learn more about the studies that could help to improve the quality of care in care homes.

In other news, The Nuffield Trust has published a new report which compares the policy and progress of care integration across the four countries of the UK.


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