This study is funded by NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research and led by PI Sara Ryan, Health Experiences Research Group, University of Oxford. Louise Locock is co-investigator at Aberdeen.

Local authorities need to find new ways of collecting and using data on people’s experiences of social care to improve service design and quality. We propose to adapt and test a service improvement approach successfully used in health care settings. We will use loneliness as our focus. Loneliness affects many people and is important to local policy makers. Based on rigorous qualitative research the approach will use carefully selected extracts of people describing their social care experiences in the form of a catalyst film to prompt discussions about how services can be improved. Importantly these discussions involve local authority staff and lay people working as equal partners.

There are two stages: 

1. DISCOVERY. Interviews with a national sample of 40-50 people exploring their experiences of loneliness and social care, and with 20 social care staff to explore opportunities for service improvement around loneliness. Interviews will be filmed or audio recorded if the person prefers, typed in full and analysed for ‘touch points’ which show positive care moments or areas where
services could be improved. A 'touch points' film will be produced.

2. CO-DESIGN involves separate feedback workshops with staff and social care users followed by a joint meeting where the film is shown to both. Participants work together to agree a list of priorities to put in place for improving services.
Interviews will include those who are less often heard in research e.g. learning disabled people and
people from black and minority ethnic groups. Doncaster will be the test site for stage 2 because
loneliness is a high risk in many parts of the city and tackling it is a priority for the local authority. Given the challenges that social care research faces in engaging practice and the time it can take to build and sustain links with local authorities it is important to have a willing organisation who are interested in research and are committed to the topic area.

Working with social care service improvement colleagues from adult social care and Doncaster residents who experience loneliness, we will use observations and interviews to study how improvements are made over a nine month period. Key questions will include i) whether this approach using a film based on a national interview study of social care users and staff perspectives of loneliness would work in a local setting and ii) whether this quality improvement approach is acceptable, or needs adapting, for wider use in social care.

Outputs will include a section on loneliness published on a new website based on analysis of the interviews and featuring film, audio and text extracts, recommendations for the use of AEBCD in social care, conference presentations, the addition of a new interview collection to the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) data archive for secondary analysis, an end of project event and three academic papers.

Anticipated impact: Local authorities need to find new ways of collecting and using data on people’s experiences of social care to improve service design and quality. Our study will draw on and adapt as appropriate an approach from the healthcare improvement field to address this need. The catalyst film will be transferable for use in service improvement initiatives across other LA settings. The project will provide valuable learning beyond the immediate project outcomes through a wider engagement strategy with social care partners.


In set up


Louise Locock;