Community allied health services are striving toward better quality service provision (including access, family-centredness, equity, and efficiency). One way to achieve this may be by changing individual clinicians' practices related to assessment, treatment provision and discharging (here referred to as ‘caseload management actions’).

Until this project, research about community professionals' caseload management actions has been scarce. Since 2006, we have been conducting a series of studies (i) to develop an intervention to improve (community-based) allied health professionals’ caseload management actions, and (ii) to investigate the feasibility of using the intervention in practice.

The work to date has been within children’s services; however, we believe that many of the findings have relevance across allied health professions. And it is expected that, in the longer term, the intervention could be used to improve community allied health services in general.

The research undertaken maps on the MRC framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions. The following steps, and studies within them, have been completed:

1.       Generate an evidence base of therapists’ caseload management actions: (i) a systematic review, (ii) an interview study with occupational therapists, (iii) an interview study with parents, and (iv) analysis of children's case notes.

2.       Build a theoretical model of therapists' caseload management actions: a synthesis of the above evidence and existing theory and evidence in behaviour change.

3.       Design an evidence- and theory-based intervention to change therapists' caseload management: a collaborative study with therapists and experts in behaviour change (i.e. health psychologists).

4.      Investigate the feasibility of using the intervention in practice: three mixed-methods case studies of children's occupational therapy services (n=46 therapists).

The intervention, titled Good Goals, aims to increase clinicians’ implementation of three actions: identifying good quality goals; agreeing these goals with clients; and evaluating the client's progress toward the agreed goal. These are the actions which the evidence from step 1 indicated as fundamental for good quality service provision.

Good Goals consists of four clusters of clearly specified behaviour change techniques. The pathways through which these techniques are hypothesised to cause changes in the outcome are explicitly specified.

Good Goals is delivered over 25 weeks and through face-to-face training sessions, DVDs, practical group tasks, and therapist-led team meetings. Some aspects are delivered by a trained facilitator whilst others are self-administered by the therapists. The delivery follows an explicit manual.

The evidence from the step 4 feasibility study indicates that Good Goals may help therapists to have a shared rationale for clinical decisions and increased clarity in service provision. Intervention uptake amongst the pilot participants was generally good; the barriers to uptake included therapists working across several locations, working part-time or perceived lack of time. During the 25-week study period, therapists' performance of the three target actions increased: identifying goals, odds ratio 2.4 (95% CI 1.5 to 3.8); agreeing goals, 3.5 (2.4 to 5.1); evaluating progress, 2.0 (1.1 to 3.5). Longer follow-up is required to evaluate other outcomes (e.g. waiting times, effects on patient health).

A formal evaluation is required to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of Good Goals.


The project lead (now in Newcastle): Niina Kolehmainen;

The lead in HSRU: Mr Graeme MacLennan;


Completed.  For further information, please see


Step 1: Evidence about current caseload management and its problems

Kolehmainen N, Francis J, McKee L. To provide or not to provide treatment: that is the question British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2008 71(12) 510-523

Kolehmainen N, Francis J, Duncan EAS, Fraser C. Community professionals’ management of client care: a mixed-methods systematic review Journal of Health Services Research & Policy. 2010 15(1) 47-55

Kolehmainen N, Duncan EAS, McKee L, Francis J. Mothers’ perceptions of their children’s occupational therapy processes: a qualitative interview study. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2010 73(5) 192-199

Kolehmainen N, MacLennan G, Francis J, Duncan EAS. Clinicians' caseload management behaviours as explanatory factors in patients' length of time on caseloads: a predictive multilevel study in paediatric community occupational therapy. BMC Health Services Research. 2010 10:249 doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-249

Kolehmainen N, McKee L, Francis J, Duncan EAS. Beliefs about responsibilities, the aims of therapy, and the structure of the therapy process: a qualitative study of caseload management issues in child health occupational therapy. Child: Health, Care and Development. 2012 38(1) 108-116 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01220.x

Kolehmainen N, Duncan E AS, Francis J. Clinicians' actions associated with the successful patient care process: a content analysis of interviews with paediatric occupational therapists. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2013 35(5) pp.388-396 doi: 10.3109/09638288.2012.694960

McAnuff J, Boyes C, Kolehmainen N. Family centred interactions in childhood rehabilitation: a secondary analysis of interview data. Health expectations [under review]

Kolehmainen N, McAnuff J. “I should’ve discharged him but I felt guilty”: clinicians’ emotions in implementation of good quality care in occupational therapy. Implementation Science. [under review]

Step 3: Design an evidence- and theory-based intervention  

Kolehmainen, N. & Francis, JJ. (2012). 'Specifying content and mechanisms of change in interventions to change professionals’ practice: an illustration from the Good Goals study in occupational therapy'. Implementation Science, vol 7, pp. 100. 
[Online] DOI: 10.1186/1748-5908-7-100 
[Online] AURA: kolehmainen_2012.pdf

Kolehmainen N. Implementing shared goal setting in practice, in Motivation and goal setting: engaging children and parents edited by Poulsen A, Ziviani J, Cuskelly M. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London [under review with editors]

Step 4: Using the intervention in practice

Kolehmainen, N., Maclennan, G., Ternent, L., Duncan, EA., Duncan, EM., Ryan, SB., McKee, L. & Francis, JJ. (2012). 'Using shared goal setting to improve access and equity: a mixed methods study of the Good Goals intervention in children's occupational therapy'. Implementation Science, vol 7, pp. 76. 
[Online] DOI: 10.1186/1748-5908-7-76