Open Access Research article

Enabling research in care homes: an evaluation of a national network of research ready care homes

Sue L Davies4, Claire Goodman4*, Jill Manthorpe1, Adam Smith2, Natasha Carrick2 and Steve Iliffe3

Author Affiliations

1 Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK

2 Dementias and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network (DeNDRoN), 27 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3AX, UK

3 Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London, London NW3 2PF, UK

4 Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2014, 14:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-47

Published: 5 April 2014



In the UK care homes are one of the main providers of long term care for older people with dementia. Despite the recent increase in care home research, residents with dementia are often excluded from studies. Care home research networks have been recommended by the Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research (MAGDR) as a way of increasing research opportunities for residents with dementia. This paper reports on an evaluation of the feasibility and early impact of an initiative to increase care home participation in research.


A two phase, mixed methods approach was used; phase 1 established a baseline of current and recent studies including the National Institute for Health Research portfolio. To explore the experiences of recruiting care homes and research participation, interviews were conducted with researchers working for the Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network (DeNDRoN) and care home managers. In phase 2, four DeNDRoN area offices recruited care homes to a care home network for their region. The care home networks were separate from the DeNDRoN research network. Diaries were used to document and cost recruitment; DeNDRoN staff were interviewed to understand the barriers, facilitators and impact of the care home networks.


Thirty three current or recent studies were identified as involving care homes as care home specific studies or those which included residents. Further details of care home recruitment were obtained on 20 studies by contacting study teams. Care home managers were keen to be involved in research that provided staff support, benefits for residents and with minimal disruption. In phase 2, 141 care homes were recruited to the care home research networks, through corporate engagement and individual invitation. Pre-existing relationships with care homes facilitated recruitment. Sites with minimal experience of working with care homes identified the need for care home training for researchers.


Phase 1 review revealed a small but increasing number of studies involving care homes. Phase 2 demonstrated the feasibility of care home research networks, their potential to increase recruitment to research and develop partnerships between health services and care homes, but highlighted the need for care home training for researchers.

Dementia; Research networks; Long term care; Older people; Care homes