Tag: health and social care

Reviewing health and social care research in Wales (reprise)

Time this morning, before I head off for a second day of MMI-ing, to draw attention to revised restructuring proposals from (and for) the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research here in Wales. I’ve written about the NISCHR review in this earlier post, and this latest document is the version which has gone out for external peer review.

I’m pleased to see that NISCHR proposes a continuation of its support for research capacity building in nursing and the allied health professions. Here’s a snip from the new document:

Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC) – RCBC was established in 2006 as a collaboration between six universities in Wales to increase research capacity in nursing/midwifery and the allied health professions in Wales. It does this through a number of funding schemes including PhD Studentships and Post-doctoral Fellowships.
v. It is proposed that a new specification is developed for an application for renewal of RCBC/ a new initiative to increase research capacity in nursing/midwifery and the allied health professions in Wales.

For those not familiar with the RCBC scheme I recommend a visit to this website.

Elsewhere, I see that NISCHR proposes pressing ahead with its plans to close the gap between its funded Registered Research Groups, Biomedical Research Centres and Biomedical Research Units. It says:

There is a need to further integrate the functions of the BRC, BRUs and RRGs into the NISCHR infrastructure and to provide clear objectives and indicators to ensure NISCHR funding makes a real difference and contributes to future outcomes. There is also a need to avoid duplication and address the perception of NISCHR’s infrastructure being unnecessarily complicated.
b. It is proposed to create new entities known as NISCHR Centres and Units. These will replace BRCs, BRUs and RRGs and become central pillars of the NISCHR infrastructure to create a more streamlined and integrated structure, improve cost-effectiveness and foster collaboration across sectors to facilitate translation.
c. It is proposed that NISCHR Centres will have responsibility for portfolio development and delivery in their areas across the translational spectrum, in collaboration with other elements of the infrastructure. In some instances they may also provide elements of infrastructure support themselves.
d. It is proposed that NISCHR Units will be smaller entities than NISCHR Centres and focus on specific points of the translational spectrum, specific activities, or represent emerging areas of research strength with aspirations to become NISCHR Centres in the future.
e. It is proposed that a competition is held for NISCHR Centres and Units; the existing BRC, BRUs and RRGs will be able to apply and be encouraged to consider how best to augment existing functions and strengths to become more integrated entities in the future. They may also incorporate the functions of other elements of the existing infrastructure. The NISCHR Centres and Units will have a Director, Operational Manager and Leads for specific specialties/areas. They will be multi-professional and multidisciplinary, including Public and Patient, NHS, HEI, Industry and Social Care representation as appropriate.

This is a significant, if not unexpected, proposal. As future arrangements begin to become clearer I’ll be looking for ways to make sure that research into mental health systems and services continues to be supported. Plenty to think about, then, as I head for the train.

Reviewing health and social care research in Wales

Here in Wales, a month or so ago the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR) published a document outlining ideas for its restructuring, and opened a discussion on how research should be prioritised, organised and supported in the future. NISCHR says that it:

[…] proposes to engage its stakeholders, including patients, the public, the NHS, social care organisations, universities, industry, the third sector and other government departments to review the infrastructure and programmes it currently funds and help determine what changes should be made.

Now, details of a series of open meetings have appeared. I’ve registered for the November 29th meeting taking place at the Cardiff City Stadium. I will also be offering up some ideas for the School of Healthcare Sciences’ collective response.

A number of things are currently brought together under the NISCHR umbrella. Funding is provided for national-level registered research groups (RRGs), regionally based academic health science collaborations (or partnerships) and a biomedical research centre and series of biomedical research units. Social care research is assisted through capacity-building funding. Support is also provided for Involving People, and for all-Wales training in research governance and related matters. Studies on the NISCHR portfolio are eligible for funded, in-the-field, help via a network of clinical studies officers and research nurses. NISCHR also oversees approval processes for NHS research, funds a number of trials units and has (this year) launched a faculty. There is also the small matter of NISCHR’s competitive funding schemes, which provide project-by-project support for high-quality studies of importance to health and social care in Wales.

Given all of this, NISCHR’s review is, I think, an important process to be contributing to. One of the NISCHR schemes mentioned in the review document is the Research Capacity Building Collaboration for Nursing and Allied Health Professionals (RCBC Wales). This has been an excellent initiative, entirely delivering (so far as I can tell) on its ambitions to develop capacity. As such, it deserves to be continued (and better still, expanded). I have to declare an interest here, of course, being an alumni of the RCBC Wales scheme having secured a postdoctoral fellowship in 2006. This was the funding which allowed me to investigate the establishment, work and wider system impact of crisis resolution and home treatment services, as I’ve variously blogged about in the past here, here and here.

The NISCHR document also draws attention to the use of Welsh health and social care research funds to support NIHR NETSCC Programmes. This paves the way for researchers in Wales to apply, on an equal footing to colleagues in England, for support from the HS&DR Programme, the HTA Programme and others. This mechanism facilitates cross-UK collaboration, which has to be a good thing. It is only through this support that Wales-based colleagues and I have been able to work on the COCAPP and RiSC projects.

I also see mention by NISCHR of an ongoing review of the operation of R&D offices, and in this regard I hope that a way is found to further rationalise approval and governance processes. The NHS research passport system could be better (it’s not really much of a ‘passport’ at all), and there are variations still in the ways different R&D offices process applications.

It is also clear that NISCHR is considering the level and type of support it offers to its all-Wales RRGs, and the connections these might have with biomedical research centres and biomedical research units working in overlapping areas. NISCHR is, if I understand this correctly, thinking through how organisations like the Mental Health Research Network Cymru and the National Centre for Mental Health might relate.

So, there we have it: evidence that changes to health and social care research organisation and funding in Wales are on the cards, with plenty of time remaining for people with an interest to get involved in shaping future arrangements.

Giving a fig about roles

Hannigan and Allen 2011In a paper published in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing at the start of 2011, Davina Allen and I drew on detailed, qualitative, research data to examine the relationships between policy, local organisational context and the work of community mental health practitioners. A version of the article, which carries the short title Giving a fig about roles, can be downloaded from the ORCA repository here.

Our paper drew on many of the social scientific ideas previously introduced on this blog in my Sphygmomanometers, remedial gymnasts and mental health work post, and which are rehearsed more fully in this earlier Complexity and change paper. Davina and I observed how recent mental health policy had triggered disruption in the system of work, with occupational groups advancing new, public, jurisdictional claims in response to perceived threats to their positions in a dynamic division of labour. One of the examples we gave was the response by sections within the profession of psychiatry to the policy of new ways of working, and its emphasis on ‘distributed interprofessional responsibility’ in particular.

The larger part of our paper reported new research findings. In the project from which it was drawn I had the opportunity to compare and contrast the organisation of community mental health services in two parts of Wales. With a view to understanding each site’s contextual features I read local policy documents, interviewed senior managers and practitioners and observed people at work. I was also interested in gaining a detailed, micro-level, view of the actual delivery and receipt of care. To this end I had permission from three service users in each site to follow their journeys through the mental health system, each over a period of four to five months. I interviewed all six about their experiences, and using snowball sampling mapped out the range of people providing them with care, whether paid or unpaid. The nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, general medical practitioners, pharmacists, health and social care assistants, family members and neighbours identified in this way were invited to take part in interviews focusing on work and roles. I also observed interprofessional care planning meetings and home visits, and read the written notes about each of the six service user participants made by practitioners.

As the full text of the paper reveals, in the analysis developed here we were particularly interested to explore the relationships between workplace characteristics and what practitioners actually did. Not unexpectedly, nurses carried out medication tasks, social workers (as the sole group able to do this at the time data were generated) fulfilled the ‘approved’ role during the operation of the Mental Health Act, doctors diagnosed and prescribed, and the sole participating psychologist provided structured therapy.

Word cloud 02.02.13Beyond this we also found that the work of professionals was ‘patterned’ (to use the phrase coined in this context by Anselm Strauss) by immediate organisational forces. In one of the two sites nurses and social workers had enlarged ‘bundles of tasks’ (this being Everett Hughes’ term). This shaping of what people did could be understood with reference to a variety of contextual features. Key informants in this site described a particularly long and positive history of health and social care staff working together. This manifested during fieldwork in an approach to care provision which emphasised shared tasks and downplayed rigid demarcations. Single community mental health workers, rather than multiple representatives of different groups, tended to be attached to the care of individual service users. Health and social care organisations in this site were also small, lacking pools of staff from which people might be drawn to cover gaps left by departed colleagues. In this constellation of circumstances nurses and other members of staff fulfilled roles which were more ‘generalist’ than was the case in the other of the two sites.

Davina and I were interested to set our findings in the new and emerging context for mental health care. We pointed to larger policy trends favouring unpredictability in working practices, and to the idea that competency (rather than professional background) should determine practitioners’ eligibility to fulfil roles. We observed that ‘flexible, boundary-blurring, professionals competent to carry out multiple tasks may find favour with managers concerned with meeting local needs in local ways’. We reflected on the implications of this for continuity of care, capability and the preparation of new professionals. The paper ended with our thoughts on the challenges all this poses to professions and their jurisdictional claims.

In a later post I’ll return to this study, and in particular to what I learned about the experiences of the people whose unfolding care I followed as each moved through the different parts of his or her local, interconnected, system of mental health care. But that’s for another day.

More on health and social care

A second brief post, now that Andy Burnham (Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary) has delivered the speech I heard mention of earlier today. I’ve found this version on the Labour Party’s website, and also this response from Chris Ham at the King’s Fund.

It’s interesting, and bold in places, and there’ll be more on the way as this is the start of a major Labour Party policy review. I see that Andy Burnham describes the mental health system as being quite separate from the system of social care, and from the system providing care for people with physical conditions. I also see that, in England, a future Labour government would seek ways of improving integration and coordination without imposing a further round of top-down structural change. I guess there might be different ideas about what counts as ‘structural change’, as some of what is proposed here is pretty radical: single points of access for all care, single budgets for all services provided, just one body (the NHS) providing ‘whole person care’. And whilst I like what I’m reading, I’m also aware that there are no ‘final fixes’ for the challenges facing public services. Change, even that which is driven by laudable ideas like promoting integration, can trigger unintended as well as desired consequences, and solve problems in one place only to create new problems elsewhere. Which takes me back to wicked problems and complex systems

Here’s to hearing the next, more detailed instalments: and indeed, any initial response from within Wales where responsibility for health and social care is a matter for the devolved Government.

Integrating health and social care

I caught a brief news item on this morning’s Today programme pointing to a speech that Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham is expected to make introducing the idea of combined NHS and social care budgets in England. This is interesting, particularly if it develops into proposals Labour puts into its next election manifesto.

The fragmentation of health and social care is a problem. NHS organisations and local authorities have to work together, but have different obligations, priorities and funding. Accountability arrangements differ, and geographical boundaries are often not shared. Variations exist in models of commissioning and providing services.

These are hardly new observations. Years ago I wrote about the problem of fragmented community mental health services, and more recently have argued that the separation of agency responsibilities is one of the reasons the mental health system is so complex. It also contributes to the proliferation of wicked problems.

So, Andy Burnham: let’s hear what you have to say.