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Understanding and using people’s experiences of social care to guide service improvements: Could an effective and efficient co-design approach be translated from health to social care using the exemplar of loneliness?

Local authorities need to find new ways of collecting and using data on people’s experiences of social care to improve service design and quality. We propose to adapt and test a service improvement approach used in health care settings using loneliness as our focus. Loneliness affects many people and is important to local policy makers. Based on qualitative research the approach will use carefully selected extracts of people describing their experiences of loneliness in the form of a 20–25 minute film to prompt discussions about how services can be improved. These discussions will involve local authority staff and lay people working as equal partners.

There are two stages:


Interviews with a national sample of 40-50 people, including those who are less often involved in research, exploring experiences of loneliness and social care, and 20 social care staff to explore service improvement opportunities around loneliness. Interviews will be filmed or audio recorded, and analysed for points which show positive care moments or areas where services could be improved. A short film will be produced.

Stage 2: CO-DESIGN

Separate feedback workshops with staff and social care users followed by a joint meeting. Participants will work together to agree a list of priorities for improving services using the film as a basis for discussion. Doncaster will be the test site because loneliness is a high risk in many parts of the city and tackling it is a priority for the local authority.

Working with adult social care colleagues and Doncaster residents who experience loneliness, we will use observations and interviews to study how improvements are made over a nine month period. Key questions will include:

  1. Whether this approach using a film based on a national interview study of social care users and staff perspectives of loneliness would work in a local setting, and
  2. Whether this quality improvement approach is acceptable, or needs adapting, for wider use in social care.

Project Outputs

  • A section on loneliness based on analysis of the interviews with around 250 film, audio and text extracts published on
  • Recommendations for the use of this service improvement approach in social care
  • Conference presentations
  • A new interview collection for a social care experiences data archive for secondary analysis
  • End of project event and three academic papers.

Anticipated impact

Our study will draw on and adapt as appropriate an approach from the healthcare improvement field. The touch point film will be transferable for use in improvement initiatives across other local authority settings. The project will provide valuable learning beyond the immediate project outcomes through a wider engagement strategy with social care partners.



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