Carers contribute unique ideas about social care
Published 9 December 2013
"This study shows that carers can indeed contribute new ideas which established stakeholders recognise as valuable.”
Carers who are involved in discussions on healthcare services can contribute unique and useful views on how services are delivered, according to the first study to quantify the value of their contribution.
The study, "Exploring the boundary of a specialist service for adults with intellectual disabilities using a Delphi study: a quanti?cation of stakeholder participation", was led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Eva-Maria Hempe and has now been published in the journal Health Expectations.
It involved asking three stakeholder groups about what constitutes a good specialist service for adults with learning difficulties. The three groups were made up of carers, frontline health professionals, researchers and policymakers. It was the first time an interactive, structured survey tool called Delphi was used for such research.
The research found there was some overlap of ideas about what the specialist service should constitute, but also that both carers and frontline health professionals contributed unique ideas. Many of these ideas were valued by the researchers and policymakers. The carers group generated more ideas regarding how to deliver services than what services to deliver. There was little difference between groups about whether ideas were appropriate or not, but questions were raised between and within groups about the feasibility of certain ideas. The researchers conclude that the study shows the diversity of ideas among stakeholder groups regarding where the boundary of a specialist service for adults with learning disabilities should sit and say the results can be used as a starting point for the design process.
Eva-Maria says: “This the first time that we can quantify the contribution of different stakeholder groups which historically had different amount of influence on the service design process. For example, experts and policy makers usually have a lot of influence, carers usually have much less. One of the reason why they have so much less influence is because those with the power over the process doubt how useful their contribution can be. This study shows that they can indeed contribute new ideas which established stakeholders recognise as valuable.”
Another study, also led by Eva-Maria during her time at Cambridge, has recently been published in the Australian Medical Journal. It looks at how people in and outside of healthcare organisations view their complexity. It found that existing approaches to explain unclear or absent structures in healthcare organisations by describing these organisations as complex adaptive systems (CAS) are too simplistic. The study concludes: “While aspects relating to people and their interactions are indeed complex, fuzziness of structural aspects are often the result of continuous change and insufficient organisational capacity to adapt to it.”
Eva-Maria  did a PhD in Engineering at the University of Cambridge and is now a consultant at Bain & Company in Munich.
Picture credit: hin255 and www.freedigitalphotos.net.