“Are we ready?” How care home teams can determine their capacity, readiness and relationships for engaging in research 


by Karen Spilsbury and Carl Thompson

As a member of the care home team, let’s start with four key questions:

• Does research contribute to my role and practice?

• How do I currently support research relevant to my practice? Can I do anything     else?

• Who could I be discussing priorities with for research in my setting? 

• What can I do to make my care setting more research-ready and engaged? What  resources do I need to help?

People living in care homes want the best care possible and staff working in care homes want to provide it. One essential tool in achieving this mission is research. Providing evidence of what works best for homes: for example, preventing falls, or improving everyday life and well-being for a person with dementia. 

There has been growth in care home research in the past decade and it’s an important part of supporting long-term care and policy. But we need more high-quality studies tailored to the specific needs of people living and working in care homes, focusing on what matters to them. Only then will research be reliably relevant for enhancing quality of life and care, embracing innovation, elevating job satisfaction and providing valuable networks to support care homes to be leaders in evidence-informed practice and improvement.

A promising trend is care and science systematically working together. Collaborative partnerships are blossoming, bringing care homes and researchers together to tackle questions that matter most. The Netherlands’ Living Lab in Ageing and Long-Term Care and our own Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds, showcase the power of combining care expertise with scientific inquiry. The opportunity to engage in research is open to all. People living in care homes, their families and friends, and staff are raising thought-provoking research questions, and collaborating with ground-breaking research groups. But the first steps may not be as difficult as people think they are. Most people will at some point be approached by a research team to engage with or participate in a research project. But this will demand dedication and resources. 

We have outlined questions that will support discussions between care staff, residents and their families and friends, prior to partnering with a research team and committing to participating in any research. First, the two most vital questions:

1. Is the research topic important to people in our care home(s)?

2. Can the research deliver meaningful benefits for our residents and staff?

If the answer is yes to both of these questions, then shift focus to:

A. Capacity: Do we have the people, time and resources to take part?

B. Commitment: Are we ready to engage and commit?

C. Support: How will the research team help us if we say yes?

We have developed statements to help care homes reach an informed decision about whether they are ready to engage with a research project. These statements provide useful prompts for researchers when discussing research plans with care homes. 

Research is a powerful force for good. Let’s collaborate, explore, and learn together, enriching the lives of people living in care homes and empowering care teams. Research can create a stronger, even more compassionate care home community. Reliably improving the lives of many, and not just by chance or good fortune.


We acknowledge our co-authors Guy Peryer, Reena Devi, Kirsty Haunch and Magda Jordao on the following paper:

Spilsbury K, Peryer G, Devi R, Haunch K, Jordao M, Thompson C, Goodman C. On your marks, get set, pause: what care home teams should consider before partnering with a trial research group. Nursing and Residential Care. 2023 https://doi.org/10.12968/nrec.2022.0059  


Our work is funded by the NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research programme (NIHR127234). KS and CT are part funded by NICHE-Leeds. KS is part-funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (Yorkshire and Humber) and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. 


The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

This blog was written by Karen Spilsbury and Carl ThompsonKaren Spilsbury is Professor of Nursing (University of Leeds), Academic Director of NICHE-Leeds, NIHR Senior Investigator and research partner in the older people with frailty theme for the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber.  Carl Thompson is Professor of Applied Health Research and Dame Kathleen Raven Chair in Clinical Research.

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