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Raising the bar on care delivery for older people

Researchers at Northumbria University are leading a paradigm shift in the professional development of those delivering integrated care to older people in the UK and Australia. To provide high-quality and efficient services to an ageing population, the team is calling for system-wide change and an overhaul of workforce competencies. This research is already having an impact on the policies and practices of care providers and pre-registration nursing curricula.


The UK population is ageing – by 2066 more than a quarter will be aged 65 and above, of which 7 per cent will be 85 or older. The UK is not alone, the global population aged 60 and over is set to double from 962 million in 2017 to 2.1. billion by 2050. Living longer presents many opportunities for individuals, families and society, but there are also challenges – particularly the multifaceted healthcare and social needs of an ageing population.


Healthcare services need to provide high-quality care for older people who may have complex and evolving conditions, be highly dependent or require end of life care. Dr Juliana Thompson and Sue Tiplady, both Senior Lecturers in Adult Nursing at Northumbria University, are conducting research that is transforming the delivery of care for older people regionally and nationally. Working with a range of health, social care, voluntary and education organisations, their primary focus is to improve workforce competencies and instigate system-wide change across all sectors, organisations and professions.

This research has resulted in a groundbreaking project – the development of the Enhanced Care for Older People with Complex Needs (EnCOP) framework, commissioned by Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group. Regionally, the study has enhanced workforce competencies, which have had a significant positive impact on care quality indicators. Crucially, this work has also been influential in the development of NHS England’s national Frailty Core Capabilities Framework and resulted in a major care home provider changing practice and policy to align with some of the EnCOP competencies.


In a further major study, the researchers were tasked to examine the profile and application of the Health Education England Advanced Clinical Practice (ACP) framework within primary care settings – their recommendations are now informing the three-year ACP education and professional development plan. “This research is contributing to a significant paradigm shift in healthcare education away from traditional, educational programme-led methods towards more holistic ‘workforce’ approaches,” notes Dr Thompson.


A major outcome of the team’s research is its influence on pre-registration nursing curricula. In partnership with care home providers, NHS Trusts, voluntary organisations and Clinical Commissioning groups, the researchers developed and implemented an integrated health and social care student internship model for caring for older people with complex needs. “Evaluations and testimonies have demonstrated the internship has contributed to improved recruitment and retention in older people’s care services, and closer working relationships between health and social care sectors and organisations,” says Ms Tiplady.


In addition to the researchers’ internship model, their Service User Participation and Engagement in pre-Registration Adult Nurse Education (SUPER) study also had an important impact on nursing curricula. They found that the employment of older service users into the curricula improved quality of life for the older people involved and increased students’ understanding of older people’s integrated care needs. The internship and SUPER initiatives are now influencing pre-registration nursing curricula in other areas of the UK, as well as Australia, where this innovative research is informing international standards and practice in Adult Nursing Education.

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