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Case study: Developing an integrated service model for people in Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland

Professor Jonathan Ling and Parisa Diba were part of a team who used Targeting Health Needs funding to improve service provision for vulnerable people in the local area.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria (NIHR CRN NENC) has held annual Targeting Health Needs funding calls for the past three years. The aim of the funding call is to support people to develop research that addresses the unmet health needs of local populations.

Among those to receive Targeting Health Needs funding in the past are Professor Jonathan Ling, Professor of Public Health at Sunderland University, and Parisa Diba, Project Manager at Teesside University. We asked Jonathan and Parisa to tell us about their project and how the funding supported their work.

Tell us about the context of your project…

Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council are developing two separate models of service provision to support the most vulnerable people in local areas. Traditionally, health and social service provision for substance misuse, homelessness and domestic abuse are delivered by different teams; but the idea behind the new models is to bring everything together into one coherent service. The aim is to make it easier for people to access services, improve efficiency and information-sharing, and to provide a person-centred approach that is in the best interests of the service users.

The focus of our research was to inform the development of these new models by meaningfully engaging with service users, local communities and staff responsible for commissioning and delivering services within these areas. This will help ensure that the model meets local needs.

How did you carry out the project?

We gathered the views of service users, local communities, staff and other stakeholders using online surveys and interviews (quantitative and qualitative data collection). This included:

  • a secondary analysis of previously published surveys and reports carried out by Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council
  • surveying individuals, community groups, practitioners and commissioners in the region to understand the barriers and facilitators to current services and inform the development of new services
  • conducting online interviews with service users, potential future service users, practitioners and commissioners to further explore the survey findings

We used digital technology to collect participant data, including telephone interviews and online interviews using Microsoft Teams. The surveys were disseminated online through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The aim was to make recommendations for future service development based on our findings.

Who was involved in the project?

The research was funded by NIHR CRN NENC and was a collaborative project involving colleagues from Teesside University, University of Sunderland, Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council.

How did the Targeting Health Needs funding help your project?

The funding helped us increase research capacity by creating a new research manager post for an early-career researcher. This developed the researcher’s skills and understanding of issues relating to multimorbidity, co-production and public health prevention. The funding also helped develop research skills within the local authority, as the Live Well Centre customer care coordinator led on recruitment for the project. The customer care coordinator was also involved in analysing the data which fed into the recommendations for future service structure.

The funding helped council staff and university researchers achieve shared learning for the project. It allowed us to develop a shared set of findings which demonstrated the positive benefits of integrated services for the local population, practitioners and commissioners.

We will use the data from this project to develop a funding bid to the NIHR Public Health Research Programme to explore the issues that were raised through this study, in particular those that relate to access and equity.

Do you have any advice for new Targeting Health Needs funding applicants?

Be realistic about what can be achieved during a set time and make sure you keep all project partners updated via regular meetings. These meetings are crucial to discuss issues such as data collection, project barriers and opportunities for further work.

Please consult our guidance document to find out how Targeting Health Needs funding could support you and your project. The deadline to submit an expression of interest form for the 2022/23 funding call is 19 November 2021.