Transcript: Research Governance in Social Care

Research Scotland Management Team, talks about the development of a Research Governance Framework (RGF).

Podcast Episode: Research Governance in Social Care

Category: Social work (general) 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MD - Michelle Drumm
IM - Irina McLean

Irina McLean, Project Leader with NHS Research Scotland Management Team, is currently leading the development of a Research Governance Framework (RGF) which will meet the needs of Scotland’s Social Care Services employers, staff and service users and their families. The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 sets the context for the integration of adult health and social care in Scotland. Underpinning the introduction of the Act was a commitment to ensure the consistent provision of quality, sustainable care services for the increasing numbers of people in Scotland who need joined-up support and care. The Scottish Government recognises that for successful reform and effective integration of health and social care sectors collective ethical and accountable research practices are required. The new RGF is currently being defined through a process of engagement. Irina tells us more about the work she is doing…

MD. So, Irina Mclean is here with us today to talk about research governance in social care. Welcome Irina, it’s lovely to meet you.

IM Thank you for having me Michelle.

MD Would you just like to describe to me the research that you are doing, and I know you are also developing a research governance framework. So, do you want to briefly describe what the research is that you are doing?

IM Thank you for asking this Michelle, I know it’s sounds a bit complicated and to separate those things I suppose I should start by describing what research governance is and why there is a need for research governance framework. So, research governance framework mainly concerns setting standards which should improve research quality and safeguard the public. It involves enhancing ethical and scientific quality, promoting good practice, reducing adverse incidents, ensuring lessons are learned and preventing poor performance and misconduct. In 1 sentence it’s difficult to describe, but establishing baseline for what quality research is, that’s what I’m hoping to talk about and that’s what I am hoping to achieve through my piece of work. A lot of research in the social care sector involves direct interactions with people and if researchers, or people who are involved with projects, are not doing it ethically an either we are not doing it respectively and in the same way as services protect service user’s rights, in the same way research governance protects service users rights when they are involved with any research activity, making sure that access to their information is justified, access to their time is respectful and generally the principles of a good research include respect and accountability. Why do you need to speak to these people? What is it you are looking to achieve? It’s not chat, we are looking to generate some knowledge as a result of our involvement with people who kindly agree to give their time to researchers.

MD I suppose increasingly service users are getting involved in research now. I suppose in the past that wasn’t always something that used to happen.

IM This is a very point on today’s agenda. Mainly in the land of participatory research and social care research, more and more, luckily I can see it happens more and more in the social care world that social researchers see the benefits of involving service users, not exercising research upon them, but doing it with them where people with lived experiences are prepared to share their views, they should be involved in setting the agenda and that’s where participatory research in today’s social care world is pivotal.

MD Tell me, what is exactly is research governance framework? Is that something written on paper? Is it something you look at? Is it a diagram? What is a framework?

IM Interesting. I wish I knew the answer, because framework for research in the UK has many facets, different ways of looking at what a research governance framework is. There is a standard set of rules, or is it a live document, or is it an actual approach? So, at the moment we have research governance framework which has been introduced in 2017 in UK and it covers health and social care research. That replaced UK country specific frameworks and introduced a bit of an integrated approach to principles and standards, but nevertheless, with respect to social care, the research governance framework differs in it’s applicability within in each home nation simply because of difference in legislations and also because of different stages of integration of health and social care, which happen amongst 4 nations.

MD So, you have been doing this research now since October 2018, what are you finding so far?

IM Very exciting journey. It has been very colourful and very fruitful. A lot of information which leads to local processes associated with research activities and mainly their pathways, that’s what I concentrated on, and engagement with the project has been different across the country and in some areas there is evidence of fantastic pieces of work being undertaken by local authorities, 3rd sector, academia, and very strong approaches are being held accountable by people who undertake research. However, in some areas research is not viewed as a priority and engagement in these areas has, therefore, been challenging and I am not going to give you an answer to why this is happening because this is not what the project is about, I’m not here to judge or find any faults within organisations. I am here to find the common theme which we could engage with for health and social care integration to flow, for that evidence to be gathered, therefore, we can see how successful integration is and what changes service users are witnessing and how service is delivering that support to people, how they nee a bit of a hand or maybe they have got practice to share, which should be celebrated.

MD So, this research governance framework underpins the implementation of health and social care, so you are talking about how integration is happening across local authorities and 3rd sector and, as part of that, this research governance framework is integral to integration working?

IM Spot on, and you said earlier that you know nothing about social care and health integration, you nailed it Michelle, thank you.

MD A little bit maybe.

IM That’s the best way of describing it. We can’t shy away anymore from the fact that integration is marching upon us, it’s happening and essentially, to connect that gap of understanding of interface between health and social care and as a result of health and social care research in Scotland, that’s what is needed and those ideas, solutions, best practice, methods, across both sectors, they need to be shared but there has to be a safe space for those ideas and best practices to be shared, so almost that platform, so that’s how I see my piece of work, creating a platform, avoiding multi-layers, avoiding adding yet another layer for a researcher who wants to undertake a project. I’m hoping that platform will generate interest and actually that best practice will stem from there.

MD And there must be some challenges to this in terms of, the practitioners may see this framework as something that is an extra layer, perhaps?

IM I’m not sure the practitioners will see it as an extra layer, I’m sure practitioners might, as any human being, which is natural, any practitioner might see something new coming their way potentially being anxious about it, but from my experience in the last nearly 7 months, practitioners are very welcoming of my work and they are particularly welcoming of principles and standards of that basic threshold of what quality of research should look like. So, almost that helping hand to guide, not direct but to guide, and if I may, to go back a bit into how the project was born, when I mentioned the UK social care and health research governance framework which exists from 2017, the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office and participating agencies recognised that the existing UK wide framework does not support, that much, the areas of methodology and ethical approaches related to social care research and, therefore, the stirring group to develop a Scottish social care research governance framework was born and me, as a project leader, I am really just a medium of gathering and disseminating that information. Going back to how important and how equal both sectors are, health and social care and the process of integration, I would like to talk a bit about NHS research and development facilities and also about existing NHS approval structure through the research ethic committees. So, basically NHS has a very strong structure associated with research processes and there is an integrating research application system, which is currently used for medical research projects and has a number of limitations for social care project applications, however, the positive spin on it is that the system is undergoing a major review process and, therefore, a potential opportunity to provide feedback on the social care research landscape in Scotland is possible and I am really hopeful that NHS colleagues and people from a medical world of research are going to work together with social care researchers because, at the end of the day, we are only working towards 1 outcome and that’s the wellbeing of service users, patients, people. So, that’s why those processes exist in processes in local authorities, 3rd sector, NHS, in essence, it’s about bringing things together to create a positive evidence, which could be used for supporting people, patients, service users.

MD It’s back to protecting people again, isn’t it?

IM Absolutely, and creating that safe environment for researchers wanting to do research and for people wanting to participate. So far we were able, together with the stirring group, to engage with, or address several things. First part of the project involved establishing the actual scope for the type and areas of social care research which takes place in Scotland and to look at what should be covered by the research governance framework. Following the scope establishment, I started undertaking a mapping exercise amongst 32 local authorities and convening a series of discussions and type of consultations with the existing research community. What I am doing just now is developing guidance for individual researchers and agencies who conduct social care research in Scotland and engaging with a wider stakeholder community to hear from them to receive some feedback because, at the end of the day, it has to work for them, not for me, and the last and exciting bit, not the least but, the dissemination workshop will be taking place in September where researchers from both health and social care background will be able to get together to address existing practices and processes.

MD And is this an event that is open to anyone to attend or is it something that is invite only?

IM Absolutely to anybody at this stage. I’m really welcoming to hear from anybody who has a project in place and please don’t be scared to come forward, even if a project you are working on or you were involved with, hasn’t quite worked out because that would give us a fantastic base to look at things which probably haven’t flown or haven’t happened the way they should and that will allow colleagues from both health and social care sectors to do a bit of homework and to look where we are going with it next. So far I can say, not to give away too much, we have a very exciting project from Northern Ireland coming this year and they are examples with us.

MD So, different organisations across sector from places like Norther Ireland, Scotland, are coming together to provide presentations about what they are doing around research governance in social care?

IM Absolutely, and I am hoping that people will work really hard on the day because, as a result of it, it’s really about practitioners doing research, what is missing, what should be put in place, and that sort of gathering will help people bounce ideas and do a bit of brainstorming and share things which probably haven’t been successful, but use it as a learning curve.

MD Ok, will there be a follow up event for these people or is it just a 1 off thing that you will bring people together?

IM At the moment it’s a 1 off but obviously the follow up paper will be written particularly on the views shared on the day.

MD Ok, what date in September? Where is it being held?

IM It’s 9th September, I believe a Monday, and it will be held in Victoria Quay in Edinburgh and please get in touch if you think that your project, or project you are involved with or going to be involved with, fits the bill and we would love to hear from you.

MD Great, ok. Let’s hope you get some people interested and along on the day. If there is 1 key message or ask of people, who are listening today, around this whole research governance framework, what is that?

IM I would be struggling to keep it to 1, but if I have to, the 1 message to take away from today’s conversation would be, don’t be put off by thinking that it is all theory, it’s all processes, it’s not relevant to me or the agency I am working for. It really is because at the end of the day it is very black and white, research is happening in both sectors in health and social care only to achieve better outcomes for people we support, there isn’t anything else behind it. Therefore, principles and good governance is only there to support what you are doing as a researcher, as a practitioner. You don’t have to be at university, you don’t have to be in a research lab to undertake any piece of research. How little or big it is, those principles will help you to get where you want to get and keep you right, keep people you are working with safe, that’s what we are aiming at with this project.

MD So, if you are listening today and you are involved or thinking about some research that involves people who are using services or carers Irina would love to hear from you and if you are interested in attending the event on 9th September also please get in touch. Irina, thank you for coming in today to talk to us about the research you are doing and best of luck going forward.

IM Thank you.

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