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1.  Improving skills and care standards in the support workforce for older people: a realist review 
BMJ Open  2014;4(5):e005356.
In the context of a population that is growing older, and a number of high-profile scandals about care standards in hospital and community settings, having a skilled and knowledgeable workforce caring for older people is an ethical and policy imperative. Support workers make up the majority of the workforce in health and social care services for older people (aged 65 years and over), and yet little is known about the best way to facilitate their development. Given this gap, this review will draw on evidence to address the question: how can workforce development interventions improve the skills and the care standards of support workers within older people's health and social care services?
Methods and analysis
As we are interested in how and why workforce development interventions might work, in what circumstances and with whom, we will conduct a realist review, sourcing evidence from health, social care, policing and education. The review will be conducted in four steps over 18 months to (1) construct a theoretical framework, that is, the review’s programme theories; (2) retrieve, review and synthesise evidence relating to interventions designed to develop the support workforce guided by the programme theories; (3) ‘test out’ our synthesis findings and refine the programme theories, establish their practical relevance/potential for implementation and (4) formulate recommendations about improvements to current workforce development interventions to contribute to the improvement of care standards in older people's health and social care services, potentially transferrable to other services.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval is not required to undertake this review. Knowledge exchange activities through stakeholder engagement and online postings are embedded throughout the lifetime of the project. The main output from this review will be a new theory driven framework for skill development for the support workforce in health and social care for older people.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC4039845  PMID: 24879830
2.  Accessibility and implementation in UK services of an effective depression relapse prevention programme – mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): ASPIRE study protocol 
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a cost-effective psychosocial prevention programme that helps people with recurrent depression stay well in the long term. It was singled out in the 2009 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Depression Guideline as a key priority for implementation. Despite good evidence and guideline recommendations, its roll-out and accessibility across the UK appears to be limited and inequitably distributed. The study aims to describe the current state of MBCT accessibility and implementation across the UK, develop an explanatory framework of what is hindering and facilitating its progress in different areas, and develop an Implementation Plan and related resources to promote better and more equitable availability and use of MBCT within the UK National Health Service.
This project is a two-phase qualitative, exploratory and explanatory research study, using an interview survey and in-depth case studies theoretically underpinned by the Promoting Action on Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) framework. Interviews will be conducted with stakeholders involved in commissioning, managing and implementing MBCT services in each of the four UK countries, and will include areas where MBCT services are being implemented successfully and where implementation is not working well. In-depth case studies will be undertaken on a range of MBCT services to develop a detailed understanding of the barriers and facilitators to implementation. Guided by the study’s conceptual framework, data will be synthesized across Phase 1 and Phase 2 to develop a fit for purpose implementation plan.
Promoting the uptake of evidence-based treatments into routine practice and understanding what influences these processes has the potential to support the adoption and spread of nationally recommended interventions like MBCT. This study could inform a larger scale implementation trial and feed into future implementation of MBCT with other long-term conditions and associated co-morbidities. It could also inform the implementation of interventions that are acceptable and effective, but are not widely accessible or implemented.
PMCID: PMC4036706  PMID: 24884603
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT); Depression; Mental health; Implementation; Qualitative research; PARIHS framework; NICE guidelines; NHS
3.  From knowing to doing—from the academy to practice Comment on “The many meanings of evidence: implications for the translational science agenda in healthcare”  
In this commentary, the idea of closing the gap between knowing and doing through closing the gap between academics and practitioners is explored. The two communities approach to knowledge production and use, has predominated within healthcare, resulting in a separation between the worlds of research and practice, and, therefore, between its producers and users. Meaningful collaborations between the producers and users of research could in theory, create the conditions for more situated knowledge production and use, and result in a potential reduction in the evidence-practice divide within a health service context.
PMCID: PMC3937942  PMID: 24596897
Knowledge Translation; Co-Production; Implementation; Evidence-Based Healthcare
4.  The role of evidence, context, and facilitation in an implementation trial: implications for the development of the PARIHS framework 
The case has been made for more and better theory-informed process evaluations within trials in an effort to facilitate insightful understandings of how interventions work. In this paper, we provide an explanation of implementation processes from one of the first national implementation research randomized controlled trials with embedded process evaluation conducted within acute care, and a proposed extension to the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) framework.
The PARIHS framework was prospectively applied to guide decisions about intervention design, data collection, and analysis processes in a trial focussed on reducing peri-operative fasting times. In order to capture a holistic picture of implementation processes, the same data were collected across 19 participating hospitals irrespective of allocation to intervention. This paper reports on findings from data collected from a purposive sample of 151 staff and patients pre- and post-intervention. Data were analysed using content analysis within, and then across data sets.
A robust and uncontested evidence base was a necessary, but not sufficient condition for practice change, in that individual staff and patient responses such as caution influenced decision making. The implementation context was challenging, in which individuals and teams were bounded by professional issues, communication challenges, power and a lack of clarity for the authority and responsibility for practice change. Progress was made in sites where processes were aligned with existing initiatives. Additionally, facilitators reported engaging in many intervention implementation activities, some of which result in practice changes, but not significant improvements to outcomes.
This study provided an opportunity for reflection on the comprehensiveness of the PARIHS framework. Consistent with the underlying tenant of PARIHS, a multi-faceted and dynamic story of implementation was evident. However, the prominent role that individuals played as part of the interaction between evidence and context is not currently explicit within the framework. We propose that successful implementation of evidence into practice is a planned facilitated process involving an interplay between individuals, evidence, and context to promote evidence-informed practice. This proposal will enhance the potential of the PARIHS framework for explanation, and ensure theoretical development both informs and responds to the evidence base for implementation.
Trial registration
ISRCTN18046709 - Peri-operative Implementation Study Evaluation (PoISE).
PMCID: PMC3636004  PMID: 23497438
5.  A pragmatic cluster randomised trial evaluating three implementation interventions 
Implementation research is concerned with bridging the gap between evidence and practice through the study of methods to promote the uptake of research into routine practice. Good quality evidence has been summarised into guideline recommendations to show that peri-operative fasting times could be considerably shorter than patients currently experience. The objective of this trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of three strategies for the implementation of recommendations about peri-operative fasting.
A pragmatic cluster randomised trial underpinned by the PARIHS framework was conducted during 2006 to 2009 with a national sample of UK hospitals using time series with mixed methods process evaluation and cost analysis. Hospitals were randomised to one of three interventions: standard dissemination (SD) of a guideline package, SD plus a web-based resource championed by an opinion leader, and SD plus plan-do-study-act (PDSA). The primary outcome was duration of fluid fast prior to induction of anaesthesia. Secondary outcomes included duration of food fast, patients’ experiences, and stakeholders’ experiences of implementation, including influences. ANOVA was used to test differences over time and interventions.
Nineteen acute NHS hospitals participated. Across timepoints, 3,505 duration of fasting observations were recorded. No significant effect of the interventions was observed for either fluid or food fasting times. The effect size was 0.33 for the web-based intervention compared to SD alone for the change in fluid fasting and was 0.12 for PDSA compared to SD alone. The process evaluation showed different types of impact, including changes to practices, policies, and attitudes. A rich picture of the implementation challenges emerged, including inter-professional tensions and a lack of clarity for decision-making authority and responsibility.
This was a large, complex study and one of the first national randomised controlled trials conducted within acute care in implementation research. The evidence base for fasting practice was accepted by those participating in this study and the messages from it simple; however, implementation and practical challenges influenced the interventions’ impact. A set of conditions for implementation emerges from the findings of this study, which are presented as theoretically transferable propositions that have international relevance.
Trial registration
ISRCTN18046709 - Peri-operative Implementation Study Evaluation (POISE).
PMCID: PMC3457838  PMID: 22935241
6.  Realist synthesis: illustrating the method for implementation research 
Realist synthesis is an increasingly popular approach to the review and synthesis of evidence, which focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which an intervention works (or not). There are few published examples of realist synthesis. This paper therefore fills a gap by describing, in detail, the process used for a realist review and synthesis to answer the question ‘what interventions and strategies are effective in enabling evidence-informed healthcare?’ The strengths and challenges of conducting realist review are also considered.
The realist approach involves identifying underlying causal mechanisms and exploring how they work under what conditions. The stages of this review included: defining the scope of the review (concept mining and framework formulation); searching for and scrutinising the evidence; extracting and synthesising the evidence; and developing the narrative, including hypotheses.
Based on key terms and concepts related to various interventions to promote evidence-informed healthcare, we developed an outcome-focused theoretical framework. Questions were tailored for each of four theory/intervention areas within the theoretical framework and were used to guide development of a review and data extraction process. The search for literature within our first theory area, change agency, was executed and the screening procedure resulted in inclusion of 52 papers. Using the questions relevant to this theory area, data were extracted by one reviewer and validated by a second reviewer. Synthesis involved organisation of extracted data into evidence tables, theming and formulation of chains of inference, linking between the chains of inference, and hypothesis formulation. The narrative was developed around the hypotheses generated within the change agency theory area.
Realist synthesis lends itself to the review of complex interventions because it accounts for context as well as outcomes in the process of systematically and transparently synthesising relevant literature. While realist synthesis demands flexible thinking and the ability to deal with complexity, the rewards include the potential for more pragmatic conclusions than alternative approaches to systematic reviewing. A separate publication will report the findings of the review.
PMCID: PMC3514310  PMID: 22515663
7.  FIRE (facilitating implementation of research evidence): a study protocol 
Research evidence underpins best practice, but is not always used in healthcare. The Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) framework suggests that the nature of evidence, the context in which it is used, and whether those trying to use evidence are helped (or facilitated) affect the use of evidence. Urinary incontinence has a major effect on quality of life of older people, has a high prevalence, and is a key priority within European health and social care policy. Improving continence care has the potential to improve the quality of life for older people and reduce the costs associated with providing incontinence aids.
This study aims to advance understanding about the contribution facilitation can make to implementing research findings into practice via: extending current knowledge of facilitation as a process for translating research evidence into practice; evaluating the feasibility, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of two different models of facilitation in promoting the uptake of research evidence on continence management; assessing the impact of contextual factors on the processes and outcomes of implementation; and implementing a pro-active knowledge transfer and dissemination strategy to diffuse study findings to a wide policy and practice community.
Setting and sample
Four European countries, each with six long-term nursing care sites (total 24 sites) for people aged 60 years and over with documented urinary incontinence
Methods and design
Pragmatic randomised controlled trial with three arms (standard dissemination and two different programmes of facilitation), with embedded process and economic evaluation. The primary outcome is compliance with the continence recommendations. Secondary outcomes include proportion of residents with incontinence, incidence of incontinence-related dermatitis, urinary tract infections, and quality of life. Outcomes are assessed at baseline, then at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after the start of the facilitation interventions. Detailed contextual and process data are collected throughout, using interviews with staff, residents and next of kin, observations, assessment of context using the Alberta Context Tool, and documentary evidence. A realistic evaluation framework is used to develop explanatory theory about what works for whom in what circumstances.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN11598502.
PMCID: PMC3356232  PMID: 22453077
8.  Implementing health research through academic and clinical partnerships: a realistic evaluation of the Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) 
The English National Health Service has made a major investment in nine partnerships between higher education institutions and local health services called Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC). They have been funded to increase capacity and capability to produce and implement research through sustained interactions between academics and health services. CLAHRCs provide a natural 'test bed' for exploring questions about research implementation within a partnership model of delivery. This protocol describes an externally funded evaluation that focuses on implementation mechanisms and processes within three CLAHRCs. It seeks to uncover what works, for whom, how, and in what circumstances.
Design and methods
This study is a longitudinal three-phase, multi-method realistic evaluation, which deliberately aims to explore the boundaries around knowledge use in context. The evaluation funder wishes to see it conducted for the process of learning, not for judging performance. The study is underpinned by a conceptual framework that combines the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services and Knowledge to Action frameworks to reflect the complexities of implementation. Three participating CLARHCS will provide in-depth comparative case studies of research implementation using multiple data collection methods including interviews, observation, documents, and publicly available data to test and refine hypotheses over four rounds of data collection. We will test the wider applicability of emerging findings with a wider community using an interpretative forum.
The idea that collaboration between academics and services might lead to more applicable health research that is actually used in practice is theoretically and intuitively appealing; however the evidence for it is limited. Our evaluation is designed to capture the processes and impacts of collaborative approaches for implementing research, and therefore should contribute to the evidence base about an increasingly popular (e.g., Mode two, integrated knowledge transfer, interactive research), but poorly understood approach to knowledge translation. Additionally we hope to develop approaches for evaluating implementation processes and impacts particularly with respect to integrated stakeholder involvement.
PMCID: PMC3168414  PMID: 21771329
9.  A realistic evaluation: the case of protocol-based care 
'Protocol based care' was envisioned by policy makers as a mechanism for delivering on the service improvement agenda in England. Realistic evaluation is an increasingly popular approach, but few published examples exist, particularly in implementation research. To fill this gap, within this paper we describe the application of a realistic evaluation approach to the study of protocol-based care, whilst sharing findings of relevance about standardising care through the use of protocols, guidelines, and pathways.
Situated between positivism and relativism, realistic evaluation is concerned with the identification of underlying causal mechanisms, how they work, and under what conditions. Fundamentally it focuses attention on finding out what works, for whom, how, and in what circumstances.
In this research, we were interested in understanding the relationships between the type and nature of particular approaches to protocol-based care (mechanisms), within different clinical settings (context), and what impacts this resulted in (outcomes). An evidence review using the principles of realist synthesis resulted in a number of propositions, i.e., context, mechanism, and outcome threads (CMOs). These propositions were then 'tested' through multiple case studies, using multiple methods including non-participant observation, interviews, and document analysis through an iterative analysis process. The initial propositions (conjectured CMOs) only partially corresponded to the findings that emerged during analysis. From the iterative analysis process of scrutinising mechanisms, context, and outcomes we were able to draw out some theoretically generalisable features about what works, for whom, how, and what circumstances in relation to the use of standardised care approaches (refined CMOs).
As one of the first studies to apply realistic evaluation in implementation research, it was a good fit, particularly given the growing emphasis on understanding how context influences evidence-based practice. The strengths and limitations of the approach are considered, including how to operationalise it and some of the challenges. This approach provided a useful interpretive framework with which to make sense of the multiple factors that were simultaneously at play and being observed through various data sources, and for developing explanatory theory about using standardised care approaches in practice.
PMCID: PMC2889857  PMID: 20504293
10.  Institutionalizing evidence-based practice: an organizational case study using a model of strategic change 
There is a general expectation within healthcare that organizations should use evidence-based practice (EBP) as an approach to improving the quality of care. However, challenges exist regarding how to make EBP a reality, particularly at an organizational level and as a routine, sustained aspect of professional practice.
A mixed method explanatory case study was conducted to study context; i.e., in terms of the presence or absence of multiple, inter-related contextual elements and associated strategic approaches required for integrated, routine use of EBP ('institutionalization'). The Pettigrew et al. Content, Context, and Process model was used as the theoretical framework. Two sites in the US were purposively sampled to provide contrasting cases: i.e., a 'role model' site, widely recognized as demonstrating capacity to successfully implement and sustain EBP to a greater degree than others; and a 'beginner' site, self-perceived as early in the journey towards institutionalization.
The two sites were clearly different in terms of their organizational context, level of EBP activity, and degree of institutionalization. For example, the role model site had a pervasive, integrated presence of EBP versus a sporadic, isolated presence in the beginner site. Within the inner context of the role model site, there was also a combination of the Pettigrew and colleagues' receptive elements that, together, appeared to enhance its ability to effectively implement EBP-related change at multiple levels. In contrast, the beginner site, which had been involved for a few years in EBP-related efforts, had primarily non-receptive conditions in several contextual elements and a fairly low overall level of EBP receptivity. The beginner site thus appeared, at the time of data collection, to lack an integrated context to either support or facilitate the institutionalization of EBP.
Our findings provide evidence of some of the key contextual elements that may require attention if institutionalization of EBP is to be realized. They also suggest the need for an integrated set of receptive contextual elements to achieve EBP institutionalization; and they further support the importance of specific interactions among these elements, including ways in which leadership affects other contextual elements positively or negatively.
PMCID: PMC2795741  PMID: 19948064
11.  A case study evaluation of implementation of a care pathway to support normal birth in one English birth centre: anticipated benefits and unintended consequences 
The policy drive for the UK National Health Service (NHS) has focused on the need for high quality services informed by evidence of best practice. The introduction of care pathways and protocols to standardise care and support implementation of evidence into practice has taken place across the NHS with limited evaluation of their impact. A multi-site case study evaluation was undertaken to assess the impact of use of care pathways and protocols on clinicians, service users and service delivery. One of the five sites was a midwifery-led Birth Centre, where an adapted version of the All Wales Clinical Pathway for Normal Birth had been implemented.
The overarching framework was realistic evaluation. A case study design enabled the capture of data on use of the pathway in the clinical setting, use of multiple methods of data collection and opportunity to study and understand the experiences of clinicians and service users whose care was informed by the pathway. Women attending the Birth Centre were recruited at their 36 week antenatal visit. Episodes of care during labour were observed, following which the woman and the midwife who cared for her were interviewed about use of the pathway. Interviews were also held with other key stakeholders from the study site. Qualitative data were content analysed.
Observations were undertaken of four women during labour. Eighteen interviews were conducted with clinicians and women, including the women whose care was observed and the midwives who cared for them, senior midwifery managers and obstetricians. The implementation of the pathway resulted in a number of anticipated benefits, including increased midwifery confidence in skills to support normal birth and promotion of team working. There were also unintended consequences, including concerns about a lack of documentation of labour care and negative impact on working relationships with obstetric and other midwifery colleagues. Women were unaware their care was informed by a care pathway.
Care pathways are complex interventions which generate a number of consequences for practice. Those considering introduction of pathways need to ensure all relevant stakeholders are engaged with this and develop robust evaluation strategies to accompany implementation.
PMCID: PMC2761848  PMID: 19804624
12.  Study protocol for the translating research in elder care (TREC): building context through case studies in long-term care project (project two) 
The organizational context in which healthcare is delivered is thought to play an important role in mediating the use of knowledge in practice. Additionally, a number of potentially modifiable contextual factors have been shown to make an organizational context more amenable to change. However, understanding of how these factors operate to influence organizational context and knowledge use remains limited. In particular, research to understand knowledge translation in the long-term care setting is scarce. Further research is therefore required to provide robust explanations of the characteristics of organizational context in relation to knowledge use.
To develop a robust explanation of the way organizational context mediates the use of knowledge in practice in long-term care facilities.
This is longitudinal, in-depth qualitative case study research using exploratory and interpretive methods to explore the role of organizational context in influencing knowledge translation. The study will be conducted in two phases. In phase one, comprehensive case studies will be conducted in three facilities. Following data analysis and proposition development, phase two will continue with focused case studies to elaborate emerging themes and theory. Study sites will be purposively selected. In both phases, data will be collected using a variety of approaches, including non-participant observation, key informant interviews, family perspectives, focus groups, and documentary evidence (including, but not limited to, policies, notices, and photographs of physical resources). Data analysis will comprise an iterative process of identifying convergent evidence within each case study and then examining and comparing the evidence across multiple case studies to draw conclusions from the study as a whole. Additionally, findings that emerge through this project will be compared and considered alongside those that are emerging from project one. In this way, pattern matching based on explanation building will be used to frame the analysis and develop an explanation of organizational context and knowledge use over time.
An improved understanding of the contextual factors that mediate knowledge use will inform future development and testing of interventions to enhance knowledge use, with the ultimate aim of improving the outcomes for residents in long-term care settings.
PMCID: PMC2742509  PMID: 19671167
13.  An implementation research agenda 
In October 2006, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of England asked Professor Sir John Tooke to chair a High Level Group on Clinical Effectiveness in response to the chapter 'Waste not, want not' in the CMOs 2005 annual report 'On the State of the Public Health'. The high level group made recommendations to the CMO to address possible ways forward to improve clinical effectiveness in the UK National Health Service (NHS) and promote clinical engagement to deliver this. The report contained a short section on research needs that emerged from the process of writing the report, but in order to more fully identify the relevant research agenda Professor Sir John Tooke asked Professor Martin Eccles to convene an expert group – the Clinical Effectiveness Research Agenda Group (CERAG) – to define the research agenda. The CERAG's terms of reference were 'to further elaborate the research agenda in relation to pursuing clinically effective practice within the (UK) National Health Service'. This editorial presents the summary of the CERAG report and recommendations.
PMCID: PMC2671479  PMID: 19351400
14.  Evaluating the successful implementation of evidence into practice using the PARiHS framework: theoretical and practical challenges 
The PARiHS framework (Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services) has proved to be a useful practical and conceptual heuristic for many researchers and practitioners in framing their research or knowledge translation endeavours. However, as a conceptual framework it still remains untested and therefore its contribution to the overall development and testing of theory in the field of implementation science is largely unquantified.
This being the case, the paper provides an integrated summary of our conceptual and theoretical thinking so far and introduces a typology (derived from social policy analysis) used to distinguish between the terms conceptual framework, theory and model – important definitional and conceptual issues in trying to refine theoretical and methodological approaches to knowledge translation.
Secondly, the paper describes the next phase of our work, in particular concentrating on the conceptual thinking and mapping that has led to the generation of the hypothesis that the PARiHS framework is best utilised as a two-stage process: as a preliminary (diagnostic and evaluative) measure of the elements and sub-elements of evidence (E) and context (C), and then using the aggregated data from these measures to determine the most appropriate facilitation method. The exact nature of the intervention is thus determined by the specific actors in the specific context at a specific time and place.
In the process of refining this next phase of our work, we have had to consider the wider issues around the use of theories to inform and shape our research activity; the ongoing challenges of developing robust and sensitive measures; facilitation as an intervention for getting research into practice; and finally to note how the current debates around evidence into practice are adopting wider notions that fit innovations more generally.
The paper concludes by suggesting that the future direction of the work on the PARiHS framework is to develop a two-stage diagnostic and evaluative approach, where the intervention is shaped and moulded by the information gathered about the specific situation and from participating stakeholders. In order to expedite the generation of new evidence and testing of emerging theories, we suggest the formation of an international research implementation science collaborative that can systematically collect and analyse experiences of using and testing the PARiHS framework and similar conceptual and theoretical approaches.
We also recommend further refinement of the definitions around conceptual framework, theory, and model, suggesting a wider discussion that embraces multiple epistemological and ontological perspectives.
PMCID: PMC2235887  PMID: 18179688

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