In this report, I will be explaining nine different functions of research within any health and social care setting and how the role of research impacts these health and social care settings.
What is research?
Research is defined as a planned process where information is collected systematically for specific reasons for it to be analysed and then reported. Research has many different purposes or functions and it includes: identifying needs, highlighting gaps in provision, planning provision, informing policy or practice, extending knowledge and understanding, improving practice, aiding reflection, allowing progress to be monitored and examining topics of contemporary importance.
Health or social care workers are involved in the care planning where they use different research principles for them to identify the needs of an individual. An example, a nurse must take a medical ‘history’ of a patient they are looking after in an initial consultation, if there’s an issue the nurse may need to take measurements such as blood pressure, pulse rate or they could require some blood samples to analyze. Another example could be a manager in any health or social care setting, for example, a care home. The manager could be observing a resident and could identify that the resident could need some assistance with personal care, the manager will then discuss this with the resident. The information that the manager has collected allows the professionals e.g. doctors, nurses or occupational therapist to come up with a decision about the care or treatment to help meet the resident’s needs.
Before a new treatment or care routine is decided for the residents of patients, it is important to carry out certain studies or research to investigate all the positives and negatives. There are other organizations, often charities, who are devoted to making the care of individuals better and improve through research. Some of the research that they do will be done specifically or earlier. For example, through screening so that the treatment can be carefully targeted to interact with the body’s system and tissues for it to slow that progress of the disease or to find a cure for it. For example, diabetes, in the UK in 2018 they funded 39 new research projects that were worth £6.7 million over their lifetime (Diabetes UK, 2018). The function of this research is to make sure that any needs a service user has a health and social care professional can-do in-depth research to find different solutions on how they can positively help meet the needs of the service user.
Planning Provision of services refers to how well organised health and social care services are in communities e.g. care homes, hospitals, sure start centers, etc. Provision for health and social care can be expensive and take more than a few years to develop. Some of the services such as Strategic health authorities, primary care trust (PCTs) and local authorities are the ones responsible for planning health and social care service provisions and these services must make sure that any decision to invest in public money is justified. These decisions that are made would need to be based on accurate and reliable information. Some of these services may decide to carry out the research by themselves or decide to commission research (the process by which an organization request and funds for another organization to carry out work on their behalf.) An example could be, the Department of Health may commission a university to be able to conduct more research on specific topics. By the department of health commissioning to a university allows them to have more of a variety of specific topics to choose from. An example of planning provision in a health and social care setting would be where some resources have been put in place to help with the winter pressures by opening pop upwards within the hospital to make more beds for people who have been admitted from A&E, plan provision has been used in this example as the hospital chiefs will need to look at all the records from previous years and that think of different options and methods to prevent people from reaching the wards. The function of research is to ensure that there’s a variety of different research done on the same topic that makes it easier for health and social care professionals to improve their arear of work.
Research into Highlighting gaps in provision, the health and social care needs of communities have now changed over time with the rise and fall of local employment; there are young families moving in and growing up, and the young adults with their families also moving on and leaving all the older adults in the family home alone. The services that are required for new housing estates, with many children is typically different from those with a higher proportion of older adults. For example, if there’s a family of six where there are two kids and four adults, they are likely to have to pay more because there are more adults who are working in this family compared to a family of four where there are two kids and two adults. The government and other local authorities constantly gather data at local and national levels for them to be able to monitor whether all health and social care services are enough, and that they can meet the needs of the residents. In the UK, the proportion of older people is increasing gradually as older people are living longer, and a lot of social care setting pay more attention to them and on how certain services can provide the best service in order to meet the needs efficiently and effectively, a negative to this is that whilst the social care services are focusing on the elderly adults the young adults and children are left on the side and not being cared for by certain social care professionals and more elderly people are being taken in to care homes where their needs are likely to be met allowing them to live longer. Whilst young children and adults are left on the side until the needs of the elderly people are met. The function of research is to make sure that if there are any gaps in any health and social care provision, they are able to find different methods in order to improve their provision and meet the needs of their service users effectively.
Informing policy and practice in health and social care
Policy in health and social care is important as it sets an overall plan of actions that are used to guide outcomes and fundamental guidelines to help make decisions. Research shows that older people stay healthier for longer if they remain in their own houses, so the local authorities have reorganised their social services departments and have closed a lot of their residential homes, and now they deliver more home-based care. Likewise, there are now some doctors’ and surgeries that are now based out-of-town or at industrial parks due to the research that has been shown that workers take less time off if they are able to see their doctors near their workplace, instead of taking a day’s leave for them to get surgery near where they live. To assist the developing health and social care policy, the government appointed a huge review of the NHS, also known as Darzi Review (Thebmj, 2008) for them to be able to identify the priorities for the health care for over the next ten years. The function of research to inform policy is to allow different health and social care organizations to see how other organizations use their policies and give others the chance to rebuild the structure they have created and made the policies they have more related to their organizations and way their policy will impact the lives of the service users.
Practice, research into the health and social care practice could be associated with, for example, the needs of individuals, improving the quality of care, ensuring the resources are used efficiently without waste, addressing specific problems that have arisen and reducing risks. For example, acquiring infections such as MRSA, using practice in this example would be doctors working with other health professionals trying out different types of chemicals multiple times and researching what each chemical does to come up with a cure for the infection. By doing this it improves the skills of the doctors and other health professionals and they are able to gain more knowledge on things that didn’t know before they started working on a cure for the infection. Some improvements to practice may involve, modifying care routines, changing how care teams work together, reorganizing the layout of a care space, developing better communication visitors, increasing choice and enabling more autonomy. By implementing these changes it would improve the way a certain health care organization does their research when it comes to finding a cure as a lot of staff have been moved around it gives other staff members a chance to show their research skills off and improve the way they practice these research skills. If there are health and social care professionals who have identified that the care given to a service user is not up to standards they are responsible for making improvements and they may decide to carry out some action research (where a researcher is a participant in a situation that occurs and the purpose is to be able to gain better understanding of the situation so that the understanding and knowledge can be enhanced) (Stretch, B. Whitehouse, M 2010).
The professionals would research any published literature on the subject and plan a simple project to introduce a change in practice, to be able to collect information to measure how effective it is and then they will analyze and interpret it. For example if you have a doctor working close with their manager to plan a simple project that they think would affect their service positively, once they have finished planning the project they would start practicing different ways to implement these changes until they are happy they have found the right change that would positively affect the standard of their practice in the care unit.
Allowing progress to be monitored is being able to look back at the previous years to be able to see what improvements have been made from that time till now, if those improvements have been effective and how being able to look to build upon the improvements that have been made. For example in a care home, the managers of the care home would look back at the previous years of the care home and how it was being run by the managers during that time and see if the changes that have been made from that period of time till now has positively or negatively affected the care home and if the changes the manager has made now has not been effective they would have to look back and see what would be the best way to make these changes a positive impact. Ways progress can be monitored could be through interviews and surveys (these would be primary data) or by looking through different articles that have been published by others (this would be your secondary data). Being able to keep up to date with other records, registers and data is also a crucial way to monitor progress.
Monitoring progress is major for example when making sure that a hospital is running efficiently, monitoring would be used to see how long patients would stay in the hospital once they are medically fit to be discharged and to find out the reason for any delays. This type of monitoring would be used to highlight any inefficiency in certain areas within the hospital such as a delay that was caused due to a patient waiting for therapy equipment to be supplied. The result from the monitoring can them be used to improve the hospital service and make sure that all patients are discharged in a timely and safe manner and also highlight the needs to purchase new equipment or change the procedures that have been put in place so that the research that will be done will help identify the efficiency of these improvements.
Improving practice is all about trying to prevent further tragedies from happening. During any research some people may discover issues that may need to be fixed or have different solutions on how to prevent that certain issue from happening again. An example of improving practice in health and social care would be if social services department exposed institutional abuse. The function of research in this example would be that it allows the social services department to look into what had happened and ways they could have prevented the institutional abuse from happening. Improving practice would lead to key details being exposed to how they could prevent things like this from happening for example policy’s that were not followed and the practice of staffing level and the safeguarding concerns. Each of these can then be addressed and then change to prevent circumstances like this from happening again. When taking part in research you must be able to evaluate the work that you have done, and this should include being able to regularly update a plan to see if there are any changes that need to be made as you progress with the work. The function of research when it comes to improving practice enables different health and social care services to improve the way they handle certain situations and to make sure that before anything is resolved the information that they get from the research they have done should be valid just to prevent any misunderstanding when dealing with any situations.
When commencing with aid reflection you must be able to consider all factors such as what needs to or could be improved and what was unsuccessful and successful about the methods of study you have chosen to work with etc. you should be able to reflect on all the positives and negatives and make suggestions on the topic for any studies in the future. Once you have reached this point of the aid reflection proceed you then need to review how the research will impact those who have decided to participate, how the research will benefit others and why the topic you have chosen is important to study. At the end of it all or during the aid reflection you need to make sure that you have applied all ethical considerations throughout the process.
For example, there are some teachers who may want to reflect on their style of teaching to see if its positively meeting the needs of the students they are teaching or not. In order for teachers to do this, they would have to hand out some evaluation sheets to the students in the class based on the teachings they have received so far. Once the students have filled the form in the teacher will collect it look at the result and reflect on the results and make any changes or improvements that need to be made if necessary. By doing this it allows the teacher to find out new things they may not have known about themselves related to teaching and will them impact the students they are teaching to positively. The function of research when it comes to aiding reflection is all about allowing health and social care services to find different ways on how they can positively impact the lives of any service user they are helping, t allows the health and social care services to gain more knowledge on certain methods they may not have been sure about themselves and gives them a chance to try out new methods of study.
Examining topics of contemporary interest, new or contemporary issues that are relevant to health and social care continually develop both at the national and local level and it becomes the subject of discussion among the public and professionals. Before the debate can give rise to the changes in the practice, the research is needed to be explored to the extent of the issue and the possible benefits to the individuals in the society. Some examples of issues that have emerged during recent years include, the role of alternative therapies in health and well-being, the likelihood of a global widespread of influenza (flu), whether genetically modifies crops are harmful to man and the environment, etc. For example, the global widespread of influenza could be a topic of interest that a lot of health services such as hospitals may find interesting and by them finding it interesting it leads to them doing more in-depth research towards this topic. They may decide to start from the beginning by finding out the definition of the full and what parts of the body It can affect and once they have gathered enough basic information they can start to find the possible effect of the flu spreading across the country and to see how they are able to prevent this flu from spreading. Some of us may have experienced new health or social care improvements as a result of the research that has been done. The function of research in examining topics is that it allows different health care services to research a topic of interest and find out information that may be useful If the topic they are researching about could negatively affect the society.
Extending knowledge and understanding is built in order to widen an individual understanding of a specific issue. For example, if there’s an individual who may have been diagnosed with diabetes my want to carry out further research for them gain a better insight into what it is. Science and technology research indicates the new development of knowledge and understanding. Although, there is some scientific research that may appear to quite far removed from health and social care needs, health and social care is an important area that requires scientific knowledge and discovery to be applied. For example, when working in health care sectors such as hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, dental laboratories, family planning and abortion clinics, etc. you must be able to not only depend on your own knowledge but have the independence to go out and do more in-depth research to gain more knowledge and understanding when you are in your field of work. New drugs, equipment and techniques such as MRI scanners are products of laboratory-based science research.
For example, when the ‘pacemaker’, was introduced it had a big impact on individuals that enabled them to live a normal life. Other computerized devices allow the monitoring of the body so that seriously ill patients have an improved chance of being able to outlast fatal conditions. The function of research in extending knowledge and understanding is to allow health and social care services to find out more in depth information on things they may have already known of or on things they may not have known of and by doing this it gives the health and social care service a chance to improve their practice in their field of work.