Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Improving care for older people - together

The recently published special issue of the Journal of Integrated Care features articles from practitioners involved in the collaborative PROP - Practitioner-research: Older people project. In this blog, Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin celebrates the aims and outcomes of practitioner-research.

We’re really pleased to be able to share our special issue of the Journal of Integrated Care. This collection of journal articles was very much a collective effort, produced in part over a shared writing retreat in October 2013.

When we set out to write these articles together, we had two primary aims:
  • First and foremost we wanted to showcase, and champion, practitioner-led research. Practitioner voices are often absent from traditional academic publications, though it’s estimated that that there likely to be many more practitioners who are active in social work research than there are university-based researchers in the field (Lunt, Shaw and Mitchell 2008). We thought it would be valuable to broaden the conversation in academic journals by including the wisdom and expertise of practice.
  • Second, we wanted to expand the conversation about the integration of the health and social care systems in Scotland. The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Scottish Bill (2013) was passed in January 2014, but local governments and health boards are still determining the realities of this system-wide change. In this special issue, we offer insights from the ‘coalface’ and share some lessons from practitioners involved in a wide-range of integrated practice. 

In talking about integration, the practitioners involved in this special issue take a wide view. We argue that integrating or involving people who use services in their planning and evaluation is one form of integration. Joint working between practitioners from statutory and the third sector is another - as is the integration of academic research and practice-wisdom. These definitions of integration echo the Scottish Government’s policy memorandum to the Bill, which states: “reform based on centrally-directed structural changes would be unlikely to deliver the shift in outcomes required” (2013: para 157).

We agree whole-heartedly. If integration is to work it needs to include the whole spectrum of people and practices involved in health and social care - practitioners, carers, people accessing these services, policy makers, academics and so on. This special issue is a reflection of integrated working as much as a set of robust insights into the workings of integration in everyday practice. As we discuss in the introductory article to this issue, we have walked the walk and have produced these articles in a cooperative way.

The articles in this special issue reflect individual research projects undertaken by practitioners in Scotland working to improve services for older people. We called this the PROP project, which stands for Practitioner-Research: Older People. As a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, CRFR, IRISS, Glasgow City Council, NHS Lothian, VOCAL, and West Lothian Council. Funded by the ESRC with support from the Scottish Government’s Joint Improvement Team, this project represents a model of joint working between practitioners of different disciplines and a bridge between academic research and practice wisdom.

This special issue is just one of the outputs produced as part of this project. Nine practitioners took part on the PROP project and each has a podcast and postcard about their research on our blog. You can also download the full research reports of the papers included in this special issue.

The second PROP project has recently started: Practitioner research: outcomes and partnership will run until December 2015. For more information contact Stuart Muirhead.

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