A new training intervention aimed at improving child therapy services has been shortlisted for a healthcare award.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s Health Services Research Unit devised the Good Goals intervention which seeks to improve access to rehabilitation for children with health needs and to improve services’ efficiency.
The intervention – which provides training and support for therapists to change the way they work – is in the running for a 2012 Advancing Healthcare Award.
These awards recognise and reward projects and professionals behind innovative healthcare practice which makes a difference to patients’ lives. Winners will be announced on Friday (March 30).
Dr Niina Kolehmainen, MRC Population Health Scientist at the University, led Good Goals which involved researchers from Aberdeen and Stirling, therapists from eight Health Boards in Scotland, and parents of children with disabilities.
She said: “Between17% and 19% of children in the UK have a long-term health condition - around 8% of these are severe, such as autism and cerebral palsy.
“Most of these children receive help from therapy services at some point but lack of access, inequity and inefficiency are the main challenges in children’s therapy services. Some children can wait up to 12 months for an initial appointment and even longer for treatment.
“These problems are at the core of families’ dissatisfaction with healthcare and are associated with family distress and psychosocial problems for children.
“Delays in the beginning of treatment starting are also a lost opportunity to prevent problems in children’s development and achievement.
“It was against this backdrop that we set out to improve practice when we began to devise Good Goals.”
As part of their background study, researchers interviewed seven parents and 25 therapists from six Health Boards and also reviewed the case notes of 154 children. They found that:
* therapists’ ability to offer appointments to new children is restricted by them allocating a lot of time to existing cases
* therapists rarely use specific goals to guide allocation of resources
* goals, even if present, are rarely shared with the child or parents
* in the absence of shared goals, therapists allocate resources based on their beliefs, values and emotions, for example therapists feel great responsibility for children on their caseloads and guilt for not providing treatment for these children
* therapists rarely evaluate the effects of treatments.
Dr Kolehmainen added: “After gathering this information we decided we needed to improve the patient care pathway and that is what led us to develop the training intervention Good Goals.
“Good Goalsis delivered to therapists via face-to-face training sessions, DVD clips, and team workbooks.
“It aims to improve the system for children and their families by providing training and support for therapists to change the way they work.
“As part of its development, Good Goals was introduced in three children’s occupational therapy services in Scotland We found that, following its introduction, therapists were setting clear treatment goals with families. Therapists reported that this helped them to focus their resources on what mattered to the families, and to see much more families than they used to.
“We plan to evaluate the training and support further, and see what impact it can have on waiting times and health outcomes for the children and families.”