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Breaking New Grounds: NIHR CRN Wessex partners with Laurel Care Home to deliver research

Image of Laurel Care Home

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex has partnered with Laurel Care Home to deliver research.

This is a first for CRN Wessex as well as Laurel Care Home, which provides residential, nursing, respite, and palliative care to 60 residents in Totton, Southampton.

After initial conversations with Laurel Care Home, staff from CRN Wessex spent time at the home to talk about research, explain what is involved and help set up the necessary procedures and processes. 

Lesley-Ann Castle, Assistant Portfolio Manager at CRN Wessex explains more: “The research journey can be an intimidating one to begin with - a lot of jargon, training, and new staff to get to know, but it's an exciting and rewarding journey and this was embraced from day one by the team at Laurel.  Before the first research study began, we were given the opportunity to meet the staff, residents, and relatives to explain our roles and demonstrate that the research would be a collaboration between us all rather than something that was being "done" at Laurel with beneficial outcomes for participants as well as education and training opportunities for staff.”

Following this initial work, their first study is now underway. 

The home is currently taking part in the AFRI-c (Air Filters to Prevent Respiratory Infections) study. Recruitment took place in the summer of 2023 with a record breaking 10 residents recruited in the first week.

The AFRI-c study, funded by NIHR, investigates the effectiveness of portable air filters in preventing respiratory infections such as coughs, colds and flu and COVID-19 among care home residents in England.

According to the most recent census survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 278,000 people aged over 65 living in UK care homes. This number is predicted to double by 2040, and as highlighted by the devastating effects of COVID-19 in care homes, reducing the spread of infections in care homes is a research priority.

Image of Felicity Dennis from Laurel Care Home

Felicity Dennis, who leads the nursing team at Laurel Care Home explains why they took part in the AFRI-c study and why taking part in research in care homes is important: “Laurel Care Home made the decision to join the research world following a conversation with one of the Research Nurses at CRN Wessex. We felt that nursing homes had a huge part to play in the research process and up to now had often been missed. Every nurse should have the opportunity to be involved with research if they want to. Participating in the AFRI-c research has enabled us to work with colleagues in the research team who have supported us with our first project. It has been beneficial for nurses from CRN Wessex to spend time in the nursing home environment to see what we do and also for us to find out about research and processes used in projects. Working together can only be positive and have a better outcome for our residents.”

Sarah Viney, Clinical Trials Assistant for CRN Wessex has worked very closely with staff, residents and families at Laurel Care Home and comments: “It has been such a positive experience working on the AFRI-c study in Laurel Care. The staff, without exception, have been welcoming and positive, happy to help and interested in the trial and research in general. The residents have enjoyed having a new face to talk to, with many telling me that they have grandchildren and are happy to take part in any study that can make their future healthier.”

Ruth Jackson, Research Nurse at CRN Wessex adds: “Laurel Care Home has always made us very welcome and we have been so impressed with their organised and efficient approach to working on the AFRI-c study. We have also been delighted with how engaged the residents, family and staff have been with the research study.”

As part of this new partnership Laurel Care Home has also signed up to ENRICH (Enabling Research in Care Homes). This NIHR programme aims to bring together care home staff, residents and their families with researchers. It provides a toolkit of resources to help care homes make the most of research, and researchers to set up and run studies effectively and collaboratively in care homes.

What’s next

The AFRI-c study will conclude for Laurel Care Home in April 2024 and they are already looking for the next research study to get involved with.  

As part of the work to build relationships and raise awareness of health and care research, members of the CRN Wessex core team and the Clinical Delivery team attended the home’s summer fayre. This provided a great opportunity to meet families, staff and the wider community and start sharing the research message. The team looks forward to attending one in 2024 too.

Kelly Adams, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, NIHR CRN Wessex comments: “Working with Laurel Care Home has been such a rewarding and invaluable experience for the team. We look forward to supporting them with future research as well as taking  these learnings forward to inform partnerships with other care homes. Research in care homes is vital. There are many questions about health, illness,  approaches to care and the effects of treatment for which there are no clear answers. The aim of research is to generate evidence to find better ways of supporting residents, keeping them healthy for as long as possible, and improving their quality of life.”