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COVID-19 Care messaging App

COVID-19 Care messaging App: supporting the care home sector using the Researcher-in-Residence model within a Living Lab

Why the research is needed? 

We are aware that many care home staff are finding it very challenging to respond to the pandemic in many ways. These include following evidenced-based guidelines and managing their fears in their day to day work. The Covid19Care digital app is designed to enable care homes to share these challenges. We wish to work with the group to support them and understand the usefulness of the app during the pandemic as a resource. We will do so by collaborating in real-time to share knowledge and facilitate practical evidenced-based solutions to the problems facing the care home sector. We will also determine if longer-term lessons can be learnt about bridging the gaps within and between different health and social care providers.

What is already known about the subject? 

We already know that many care homes are struggling to find relevant timely information from official sources. We know that care homes can feel isolated and benefit from collective support from other homes as a community of practitioners. The researcher-in-residence model can provide valuable citizen-generated collaborations which tend to last long-term. This will be one of the first researcher-in-residence models to evolve from a pandemic in the UK and certainly the first within the care homes sector. We consider this to be a pragmatic response by embedding a researcher, as a researcher-in-residence, as part of an innovative but highly pragmatic response to the pandemic. 

Who we are working with? 

We will work closely with My Home Life, NIHR East of England ARC, NIHR Yorkshire and Hull ARC, NICHE Leeds, The Nursing Home Association, The British Geriatrics Society and NHS England in addition to our more local partners; East Midlands Academic Health Sciences Network Patient Safety Collaborative, the Enabling Research in Care Homes Network, the Nottinghamshire Independent Care Sector Community of Practice and the Teaching and Research Care Homes Network.

How are patients and the public involved? 

NHS stakeholders, Donna Nussey and David Ainsworth have engaged in a series of discussions with Julienne Meyer and NHS London. Care home stakeholders have been involved in this rapid response proposal including Anita Astle, Managing Director of Wren Hall Nursing Home, Selston; Gill Heppel, Managing Director of Percurra Domiciliary Care; and a stakeholder group of further two care home managers, and two NHS care home leads.

What we will do? 

In the first phase (A), we will invite the members of the Covid19Care app community to prioritise their needs. For example what matters to them may be understanding the best ways to clean crockery whilst adhering to the pandemic guidelines. The research team will explore this topic and develop clear practical guidance geared to care homes. This will be readily available and free to share with other homes regardless of whether they are members of the group or not.

Over time, this resource bank will be built upon and respond to the needs of the group.

In the second phase (B) we will conduct semi-structured interviews and focus groups with members of the group to explore how they (and their care homes) benefitted from the group including the input of the research team.

What the benefits will be? 

Phase A: This will include producing clear easy read guidance for care homes to follow and include cover topics such as infection control, managing hygiene with residents who wish to walk with purpose, use of technologies during end-of-life care, managing well-being for staff. All these resources will be evidenced-based and updated on a regular basis. They will be drawn up with the collaboration with care home representatives and key national and local experts. These will be free source materials and available on multiple platforms from May 2020 onwards.

Phase B: We will analyse the information from the phase A including the ‘researchers in residence’ model. This will include a comprehensive outcomes framework to include the levers and barriers to the collaborations, decision-making, short-term and long-term changes in improvements and initiatives. This will include examining shifts in distinct professional knowledge, practice, cultural and practice domains in the context of the duration of the pandemic.

From this it is anticipated that the study will describe and explain how the pandemic was experienced by the care home sector members to develop recommendations for improvement in the face of future crisis.

When the findings will be available? 

Phase A knowledge mobilisation materials will be provided to members of the network from May 2020. Findings from Phase B will be available in May 2021.

How we are planning for implementation? 

Implementation will occur throughout the project within the community of app users (COVID19CARE). We will share knowledge mobilisation materials more widely through our open access website: and other key sites.


Fiona Marshall,