The Older Person

Developing Research Priorities in Care Homes into Collaborative Projects

Delegates who presented at the event and Centre Director, Professor Kerry Hood (6th from left).
Delegates who presented at the event and Centre Director, Professor Kerry Hood (6th from left).

A recent workshop organised by the Centre for Trials Research and PRIME Centre Wales brought together experts in Wales with an interest in care for the older person, so they could begin to develop research ideas collaboratively.

Establishing research priorities

The Centre for Trials Research recently conducted a Research Priority Setting in Care Homes study which invited care home staff throughout the UK to act as an ‘expert panel’ to identify the areas where more research is needed for older people living in care homes. We used consensus building techniques through a series of rounds to identify a set of the 15 top priorities for future research. Our aim is that sharing the findings with a range of practitioners, researchers, and funding bodies will help to ensure the future research agenda is focused on the areas of greatest need.

Group discussion

Group discussions throughout the day allowed ideas to emerge and be debated

All-Wales research workshop

Following on from the study, we organised a Research Development Workshop to bring together a wide range of researchers, practitioners, and others throughout Wales to start developing proposals to address the questions that have been identified as priorities during the study. This event was the first of its kind for us, and was designed for those with an interest in this area who wanted to find collaborators to establish research development groups.

The workshop aimed to bring together people from a range of backgrounds, specialities, skills and experience from both health and social care. This was to reflect that the care provided in care homes is unique as it encompasses a range of health conditions, as well as features associated with ageing, such as frailty and cognitive impairment, and incorporates social care as well as health care. Those attending could either ‘pitch’ their idea for a research proposal, or join researchers with similar interests to develop proposals.

Delegate holding pen and pad, whilst listening and reflecting on new ideas

Delegates could make connections and listen to new ideas throughout the day

Wide range of delegates

Around 50 people attended, including representatives from 4 health boards, a range of Schools and Centres across 4 universities, third sector organisations, care regulators, and a care home team. Some were experienced researchers, whilst others were newer to research but had invaluable hands on experience working with the care home sector. All had been provided with a briefing report that added context to the research questions identified as priorities, summarised some of the existing evidence, and relevant guidelines and policies.

The day started with presentations from the study leads (Professor Kerry HoodDr Fiona WoodVictoria Shepherd), which provided information about the work of the Centre for Trials Research and PRIME Centre Wales, set the scene for research in care homes, and the results of the priority setting study.

Delegates who were ‘pitching’ a research idea then presented their proposal to the whole group. Each of them explained:

  • the priority being addressed
  • the aim of their project
  • the initial research design.

A range of research proposals were presented. Two predominant themes emerged:

  • delivery of truly person-centred care
  • advanced care planning towards the end of life.
Around 50 people attended, including representatives from 4 health boards, a range of Schools and Centres across 4 universities, third sector organisations, care regulators, and a care home team

Delegates came from 4 health boards, a range of Schools and Centres across 4 universities, third sector organisations, care regulators, and a care home team

Workshop structure

The theme of the workshop was gemstones. As well as recognising that older people are valuable to society, the concept was that polishing and refining a rough uncut ‘gem of an idea’, could result in a bright and shining jewel.

“…. like uncut diamonds – discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in the useful life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each research proposal was assigned a gemstone which those wishing to contribute to developing it, or just meet and link with the person ‘pitching’ it, could use to identify that topic and person.

With refreshments in hand, delegates joined discussions around those topics that they were interested in, contributing ideas, advice, and contacts. People could move from one gemstone round table discussion to another, or remain and continue exploring an idea or approach further with the development group forming around the proposal. This free-form style was well suited to developing proposals which built on the wealth of experiences and perspectives from other researchers and stakeholders, and their previous work. The phrase ‘Oh, you might be interested in ……..?’ echoed around the room.

Support from experienced researchers

Experts from the Centre for Trials Research with experience of research in care homes helped each group to develop their research ideas:

  • providing specific advice on trial methodology
  • giving guidance on statistics
  • how to conduct research in this setting
  • discussing issues around informed consent and recruitment.

They moved between the development groups and were also able to signpost to other sources of advice or support, including potential funders. All those attending were informed about the support available when planning and developing health and social care research from the free Research Design and Conduct Service (RDCS) that operates through 3 regional centres in Wales.

Fortified by lunch and an endless supply of tea and coffee, discussions continued during the afternoon session, which culminated in the lead for each proposal feeding back to the whole group about how their proposal had developed during the workshop, key new approaches or methods that had been suggested, and the next steps.

Victoria Shepherd, Centre researcher

Victoria Shepherd, Centre researcher, supporting delegates to develop ideas that could be submitted for grants

Forming research teams

The diversity of delegates, and an interactive format, meant that those attending had a real opportunity to meet and engage with individuals and organisations that they wouldn’t otherwise encounter, but who all shared a common purpose – to come together to do research that could make a significant positive difference for those requiring long term care.

Feedback at the end of the day was very positive – those attending valued the sharing of expertise, knowledge transfer, and validation of their ideas, as well as the forming of partnerships. They also appreciated hearing about the work of the Centre for Trials Research and PRIME, which had been ‘de-mystified’.

The key message from the day was that this does not end here: it is just the start of joining together and contributing to a much needed evidence-base for care provided for older people in care homes in Wales and beyond.

For more information about the study, or the development of research to address these priorities, please contact Victoria Shepherd.

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About the author

Victoria Shepherd is a research associate/nurse in the South East Wales Trials Unit (SEWTU), based in the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University. Research interests include: research ethics and vulnerable populations (children, older people, ITU).