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£2.2 million collaboration to enhance quality of life in care homes

Posted on November 5th 2019

PenARC and the University of Exeter are collaborating with universities and charities across the UK in a £2.2 million project. The project aims to improve how researchers and health and social care services use data to improve the care and quality of life for care home residents, families and staff.

The four-year National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded study, led by the University of Hertfordshire, will address the need to develop robust systems to support how different services and individuals (e.g. care staff, NHS professionals, family, regulators, social services) work together for residents’ benefit.

Developing research resources and minimum data set for care homes' adoption and use’ (DACHA), intends to review how current health and social care systems work and explore what “good” looks like. It will also look at evidence on how to integrate data and test what a minimum dataset would need in order 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.

Dr Iain Lang, PenARC Implementation Lead and Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Associate Dean of International & Development at the University of Exeter, said: “It’s exciting to receive this level of funding to help people in care settings. Around 420,000 older people live in care, most of whom rely on the NHS for medical care. These people are some of the most vulnerable in the country and it’s important that care homes are able to understand their residents’ needs to support them to live well in their later years. Currently, many people become frustrated and unwell due to the lack of information or communication, which impacts their quality of life.”

“The differing approaches taken by different care homes means it’s harder for us to plan for the future of residents and also carry out research in these homes to improve services for people in need of care.”

Claire Goodman, Professor of Health Care Research, NIHR Senior Investigator at the University of Hertfordshire and the lead investigator said: “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 dataset 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 on 01 November 2019, will bring together 11 other institutions working collaboratively to develop reciprocal systems of working between the NHS and care homes to optimise current provision and research effectiveness.

The full list of collaborators are: University of Hertfordshire, University of Exeter, University of Leeds, Newcastle University, University of Kent, University of East Anglia, The University of Glasgow, University of Nottingham, University of Cambridge, The Health Foundation and The National Care Forum and Volunteer Network Alzheimer’s Society.

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