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The person at the centre of care

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Personalisation has been a goal of health and social care providers for a number of years.

AH Focus Groups 1

It is considered to be an advantage of a properly integrated care system; where services join up around a patient, it is anticipated that not only would providers save money through more efficient processes, but also that service users would have more appropriate options and greater choice.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence report Personalisation: A Rough Guide identifies personalisation as “putting [people] at the centre of their own care and support”, allowing them to “identify their own needs and make choices about how and when they are supported”, as opposed to the traditional service-led approach.

“People need access to information, advocacy and advice so they can make informed decisions,” the 2008 SCIE report says.

Successful personalisation, in many respects, rests on the free flow of information between service user and provider, and between providers, in order to create services that people actually need, and to ensure users are aware of and able to choose them.

With these principles in mind, domiciliary care provider Allied Healthcare, in partnership with Databuild Research and Solutions, ran five focus groups with service users and their families in Hertfordshire and Suffolk about how its services could be improved.

Allied Healthcare chose the first of these because it has a mixture of cities, towns and villages, and the latter because of its rural nature, relatively sparse population and public transport limitations.

The discussions were held without Allied Healthcare representatives being present, to encourage honesty from participants.

Allied Healthcare Focus Groups 3

Michelle McGuire, the director of Databuild Research and Solutions, says: “Through the work we were trying to understand and explore the quality of care
that Allied Healthcare provides for its customers.

“We were trying to understand how future care provision could be improved, and tested some particular concepts with the group to get feedback on them.

“When you present ideas to people they often say ‘yes, that’s a good idea’ but when you get into the detail about it, you start to understand when they would and wouldn’t actually use it. The focus groups were good for throwing some ideas into the mix.”

Databuild floated the idea of creating drop-in centres with the discussion groups and this helped Allied Healthcare to hone the idea eventually.

Ms McGuire says: “The idea was originally met with ‘terrific, great’ and then people started to have questions about it.

“We explored under what circumstances they would engage with such a service, where it would add value and where it wouldn’t.”

Analysis of the research undertaken with the focus groups yielded a number of elements to care services that users felt were important.

The research revealed a need for:

  • better integration with the local community
  • easy access to information on care support
  • collaborative delivery development with other care providers and local stakeholders
  • good signposting to other services
  • access to community groups and information/training sessions
  • impact on forward delivery planning models.

Taking this information into account, Allied Healthcare has revamped its model of service delivery and community engagement within Hertfordshire.

This year, the provider will open three customer care centres in the county. The centres will act as a one-stop shop for care service users and their families to access information and advice. All three will be easy to access and near to a health centre or GP surgery with a walk-in area for people seeking help.

Allied Healthcare plans to provide at the centres carer training and events such as coffee mornings for people suffering from social isolation. The centres will also help Allied Healthcare to align its work with that of local authorities and other public agencies such as health partners, collaborating on projects and referring people to other services including Citizens Advice.


Taking the time to listen and learn

Matt Jackson, regional managing director, Allied Healthcare

Matt Jackson Allied Healthcare

We all recognise that the Care Act has set the tone for helping people to maintain their independence in their own home for longer.

We also know that to achieve this, commissioners and service providers must work together and embrace broader collaborations to meet the increasingly complex needs of the growing number of service users.

Yet before we can create a more sustainable and responsive network of health and social care services, we need to make sure we understand public expectations for those services and how these can be realistically matched to this new agenda.

At Allied Healthcare we’ve been tracking the evolving needs of service users and the growing demand for service personalisation for some time. Some 18 months ago we commissioned an Ipsos MORI research report to pinpoint what mattered most to users of our service and commissioning organisations. We then overlaid the results from this work with data from our ongoing customer satisfaction survey.

This identified areas where improvements could be made and efficiencies achieved, but lacked the more detailed insight necessary to develop a more holistic and person centred approach to our service development. For example, it was clear that service consistency and reliability were high on everyone’s agenda but how best to achieve these while also supporting our care teams and improving outcomes for service users?

To give us a context in which to consider developments to our services, we set out to engage directly with service users and their families. You’d be right in thinking this was an obvious next step. But rather than approach this with the aim of driving the discussion to a particular solution, we offered some outline thoughts and then listened to the views and opinions of those who use our services.

The debate and ideas generated have helped us shape our approach to a new type of care centre. These are not simply Allied Healthcare branches, for the exclusive use of our care teams and customers, but will be real community hubs, where care teams, commissioners, customers and other support organisations can coexist. But most importantly, a place where service users, their friends and families have access to the information, advice and guidance they need.

Our first centre opens next month and as we move forward we will continue to listen and respond to the views of our customers, our care teams and other stakeholders. By putting our customers at the very heart of everything we do, we believe we can build a service delivery model which delivers the improved outcomes everyone is seeking.

Feature sponsored by Allied Healthcare

Allied Healthcare logo












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