Project AMM52

Prioritising Research through Engagement with older Adult Care Homes (the PREACH project)

The PREACH project aims to align research priorities in long-term care settings with the needs and experiences of their key stakeholders, by asking residents, their families, care home staff and funders what ideas they have for research, and what is most important to them. We will map these priorities to available data sources, such as the VICHTA trials archive, to produce oven-ready research ques


Care home research has grown in recent decades, and information collected by these studies can be repurposed, offering a valuable, low-risk and cost-effective opportunity for ‘secondary analysis’ – looking at information already available in a new way to see if we gain further learning from it. The Virtual International Care Homes Trials Archive (VICHTA) combines information from multiple studies about different care models and health conditions, including data from over 6000 residents.

Despite this wealth of information, topics researchers want to study may not reflect the priorities of people living in care homes, their families, or staff caring for them. Funders highlight the importance of talking to these people, to make sure we’re using data from studies wisely and focusing research funding on the right things. We now seek to discover what key stakeholders think is most important to learn from research. Priority setting presents an opportunity to actively engage with care home networks and generate research ideas grounded in the lived experiences of residents.

Project Aims

The project aims to achieve the following objectives:

1. Identify and build relationships with key care home stakeholders who can publicise the project among their networks and disseminate results
2. Identify key research priorities, particularly for care home residents and their carers, through a mixture of online, postal and in-person engagement
3. Map stated priorities with data available through VICHTA trials archive and other secondary data sources.

Project Activity

Step 1: Set up
Establish an advisory group representing key stakeholders and social care researchers to foster networks and promote priority setting.
Develop project website ( providing information about the study, including the purpose, background, and available trial data through VICHTA.

Step 2: Gathering priorities
Conduct an online survey for all stakeholders A postal version will be available on request. Concurrently, we will distribute resource packs to care homes to ask residents about what is most important to them and what future research they suggest. These exercises with residents will be facilitated by in-house activity coordinators.

Step 3: Processing priorities
Organise suggestions into clear summary questions and identifying emerging themes, then check potential research questions against existing evidence.

Step 4: Mapping to available data
Map research priorities to existing datasets like VICHTA to produce "oven-ready" research ideas. Where it is unlikely research ideas could be answered using secondary data, we will publish the priorities to encourage new research.

Anticipated or actual outputs

By working with people who really know about care homes, we will ensure our research questions are relevant and useful. We will end up with a solid list of research priorities based on what these people think is most important. We will share these priorities through social media and circulate among NIHR Policy Research Units, academic journals, sector magazines, newsletters and webinars to build collaborations. This approach aims to advance priority-setting methodology by mapping not only against existing evidence, but also against existing data that can be repurposed to address the suggested research questions, ensuring the optimal use of publicly funded research data.

Research prioritisation is an important means for minimising research waste and ensuring research resources are targeted towards questions of the most potential benefit. Repurposing existing data represents value for money for funders and ultimately the wider public. VICHTA provides substantial data for secondary uses, and this work will enhance its usefulness, by informing how best to exploit that data. Priority setting ensures the new questions asked are of benefit and a priority to key stakeholders in social care, including care home residents, relatives, staff, owners, local authorities and national policy makers. The list of priorities will be promoted among researchers, with the anticipation this can foster new collaborations.

There is a strong emphasis on patient and public involvement in this project. As well as online and postal survey for a wide range of stakeholders, we are engaging directly with care home residents, facilitated through activity co-ordinators already working in the home.

Who is involved? 

Lisa Irvine and Kerry Micklewright, University of Hertfordshire
Funded through NIHR Policy Research Unit for Economic methods of evaluation in health and care interventions (EEPRU) (based at University of Sheffield)