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Mrs Ruth Abrams

MRes, MSc, BA

Academic and research departments

School of Health Sciences.


Areas of specialism

Realist Review; Qualitative research

Previous roles

13 March 2018 - 31 March 2020
2015 - 2018
Researcher and hourly paid lecturer
Kingston University


Introduction Unprofessional behaviours encompass many behaviours including bullying, harassment and microaggressions. These behaviours between healthcare staff are problematic; they affect people’s ability to work, to feel psychologically safe at work and speak up and to deliver safe care to patients. Almost a fifth of UK National Health Service staff experience unprofessional behaviours in the workplace, with higher incidence in acute care settings and for staff from minority backgrounds. Existing analyses have investigated the effectiveness of strategies to reduce these behaviours. We seek to go beyond these, to understand the range and causes of such behaviours, their negative effects and how mitigation strategies may work, in which contexts and for whom. Methods and analysis This study uses a realist review methodology with stakeholder input comprising a number of iterative steps: (1) formulating initial programme theories drawing on informal literature searches and literature already known to the study team, (2) performing systematic and purposive searches for grey and peer-reviewed literature on Embase, CINAHL and MEDLINE databases as well as Google and Google Scholar, (3) selecting appropriate documents while considering rigour and relevance, (4) extracting data, (5) and synthesising and (6) refining the programme theories by testing the theories against the newly identified literature. Ethics and dissemination Ethical review is not required as this study is a secondary research. An impact strategy has been developed which includes working closely with key stakeholders throughout the project. Step 7 of our project will develop pragmatic resources for managers and professionals, tailoring contextually-sensitive strategies to reduce unprofessional behaviours, identifying what works for which groups. We will be guided by the ‘Evidence Integration Triangle’ to implement the best strategies to reduce unprofessional behaviours in given contexts. Dissemination will occur through presentation at conferences, innovative methods (cartoons, videos, animations and/or interactive performances) and peer-reviewed journals.

Sophie Park, Ruth Abrams (2019)Alma-Ata 40th birthday celebrations and the Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care 2018, In: British Journal of General Practice69(682)pp. 220-221 Royal College of General Practitioners

International governments, universities, and health and social care organisations celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration in October 2018. Alma-Ata1 was a landmark global commitment to primary health care (PHC), which conceptualised health, not only as provision of biomedical care, but also emphasised the importance of social and economic factors. This anniversary has been marked with the publication of the Astana Declaration in Kazakhstan 25–26 October 2018,2 which will contribute to events next year supporting ‘universal health coverage’ (UHC) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Sophie Park, Ruth Abrams (2019)A Realist Review of General Practice Delegated Home Visits: Task Shifting, Sharing, Mixing and Delegating, In: Proceedings of the 47th NAPCRG Annual Meeting North American Primary Care Research Group

Context: UK General Practice is being shaped by new ways of working with the release of both the NHS long-term plan and GP contract (BMA, 2019; NHS, 2019). Multidisciplinary teams and workforce expansion see the shifting, sharing, mixing and delegation of traditional GP tasks to other staff such as community paramedics. One of these tasks is the delegation of patient home visits in order to reduce both GP workload and hospital admissions. Yet the mechanisms of delegation (how and why delegation occurs) remain opaque and are likely to be highly dependent on a range of contexts. Objective: Our evidence synthesis explores the ways in which delegation of home visits relies upon context, which subsequently affects both patient outcomes and clinical workload within primary care settings. Study Design: Evidence is consolidated through a systematic realist review. Dataset: We have synthesised a range of relevant data including qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods research and grey literature. Population: A total of 70 studies relating to primary care, with similar healthcare systems to the UK discussing delegation are included. Outcome Measures: A realist review produces context-mechanism-outcome configurations, which provide causal explanations. Results: Preliminary findings will be presented. Contexts such as the nature of employment, patient conditions and GP perspectives to delegation will be articulated. The impact on patient satisfaction and clinical workload will be discussed in relation to outcomes. Mechanisms such as risk tolerance and trust will be elucidated and the tensions between multi-disciplinary professional identities highlighted. Expected Outcomes: Our findings and causal explanations will produce review findings with potential to help future implementation of delegated home visits and provide guidance to support GP decision-making about how and when to delegate patient home visits.

The inescapable presence of ageing is a subject that many of us may shy away from, perhaps in a bid to prolong youth, a wistful idea that confronts us visually in much of our media avenues today. Yet at some point we are likely to be faced with the fact that age is not a fad or fashion that will fade away. It is with this in mind that Pachana in her short introduction to ageing, endeavours to tackle the meanings and perceptions of ageing, along with the individual, cultural and societal implications of our assertions. In six concise chapters, Pachana takes her reader on a whirlwind tour of the history of ageing; the biological, psychological and interpersonal aspects of ageing; successful ageing and some well-considered reflections on where the nature of ageing will take us.

Jill Maben, Anna Conolly, Ruth Abrams, Emma Rowland, Ruth Harris, Danny Kelly, Bridie Kent, Keith Couper (2022)‘You can't walk through water without getting wet’ UK nurses’ distress and psychological health needs during the Covid-19 pandemic: A longitudinal interview study, In: International Journal of Nursing Studies104242 Elsevier

Background Pre-COVID-19 research highlighted the nursing profession worldwide as being at high risk from symptoms of burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on 11th March 2020 due to the sustained risk of further global spread of COVID-19. The high healthcare burden associated with COVID-19 has increased nurses’ trauma and workload, thereby exacerbating pressure on an already strained workforce and causing additional psychological distress for staff. Objectives The Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses (ICON) interview study examined the impacts of the pandemic on frontline nursing staff's psychosocial and emotional wellbeing. Design Longitudinal qualitative interview study. Settings Nurses who had completed time 1 and 2 of the ICON survey were sampled to include a range of UK work settings including acute, primary and community care and care homes. Interviewees were purposively sampled for maximum variation to cover a broad range of personal and professional factors, and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including redeployment. Methods Nurses participated in qualitative in-depth narrative interviews after the first wave of COVID-19 in July 2020 (n=27) and again at the beginning of the second wave in December 2020 (n=25) via video and audio platform software. Rigorous qualitative narrative analysis was undertaken both cross-sectionally (within wave) and longitudinally (cross wave) to explore issues of consistency and change. Results The terms moral distress, compassion fatigue, burnout and PTSD describe the emotional states reported by the majority of interviewees leading many to consider leaving the profession. Causes of this identified included care delivery challenges; insufficient staff and training; PPE challenges and frustrations. Four themes were identified: (1) ‘Deathscapes’ and impoverished care (2) Systemic challenges and self-preservation (3) Emotional exhaustion and (4) (Un)helpful support. Conclusions Nurses have been deeply affected by what they have experienced and are forever altered with the impacts of COVID-19 persisting and deeply felt. There is an urgent need to tackle stigma to create a psychologically safe working environment and for a national COVID-19 nursing workforce recovery strategy to help restore nurse's well-being and demonstrate a valuing of the nursing workforce and therefore support retention.

Valerie D'Astous, Ruth Abrams, Tushna Vandrevala, Kritika Samsi, Jill Manthorpe (2019)Gaps in Understanding the Experiences of Homecare Workers Providing Care for People with Dementia up to the End of Life: A Systematic Review, In: Dementia18(3)pp. 970-989 SAGE Publications

This systematic review of the literature explores the perspectives and experiences of homecare workers providing care for people with dementia living at home up to the end of life. A search of major English language databases in 2016 identified 378 studies on the topic, of which 12 met the inclusion criteria. No empirical research was identified that specifically addressed the research question. However, synthesis of the findings from the broader literature revealed three overarching themes: value of job role, emotional labour and poor information and communication. The role of homecare workers supporting a person with dementia up to the end of life remains under-researched, with unmet needs for informational, technical and emotional support reported. The effective components of training and support are yet to be identified.

Ruth Abrams, Sophie Park (2019)Accessing GP appointments- a disaster waiting to happen or hope on the horizon? University College London

In a recent expose called ‘GPs: Why Can’t I Get an Appointment?’, a Panorama documentary, which aired on BBC1 on Wednesday 8th May, emphasised the current limits of and pressures on the NHS system. The programme featured interviews with overworked GPs and allied healthcare professionals, painting a rather bleak picture. Practices are merging and closing at an ever increasing rate. Patient loads increase as patient lists are subsumed. Patient multi-morbidities have increased the need for chronic conditions to be monitored with regular GP appointments. Yet on average patients wait a minimum of two weeks for a routine appointment. Early retirement and a limited flow of trainees into General Practice also contribute to the strain, making practice sustainability difficult to envisage. Inevitably, pressure and frustration are being felt amongst both patient groups and the primary care workforce.

Ruth Abrams (2019)Is there a doctor in the house? Lessons from a public engagement event at the Bloomsbury theatre National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

On Wednesday 23rd October, Sophie Park and Ruth Abrams, (researchers based within UCL’s Primary Care and Population Health department), in collaboration with the Menagerie Theatre Company opened the doors to Bloomsbury Theatre to introduce, ‘Is there a doctor in the house? A performance and theatre workshop’. This event was a unique theatre experience, following the journey of a patient and carer as they navigated the twists and turns of our healthcare system. The purpose of our event was to discuss, with healthcare practitioners, patients, students and the general public, the three important issues identified in our evidence synthesis on delegated home visits within primary care. This research was funded by the School for Primary Care Research as part of a bigger collaborative project on evidence synthesis, the evidence synthesis working group. Our findings suggest that (1) whilst patients report short-term satisfaction when visited by an alternative health professional, the impact this has on their health (and long-term outcomes) is less clear; (2) a GP may feel home visit delegation is a risky option unless they have high levels of trust and experience with the wider multidisciplinary team; and (3) the healthcare professional receiving the delegated home visit may benefit from being integrated into general practice. In the longer-term however, these posts may not be sustainable if staff feel their clinical autonomy is limited by the delegation process.

Martina Kelly, Anita Berlin, Ruth Abrams, Sophie Park (2019)Pitfalls and pleasures of pick-and-mix careers: portfolio working and whole-person medicine in general practice, In: British Journal of General Practice69(689)pp. 622-623 Royal College of General Practitioners

Pick-and-mix or 'portfolio' careers are increasingly popular in general practice and are a dominant strand of recruitment initiatives in the UK and Canada. Portfolio careers are frequently framed as GPs adopting roles outside of and in addition to general practice, for example, working in clinics or other organisations, offering subspecialist care. 'Portfolio GPs' are generally employed on a short-term or sessional contract basis, in contrast to 'partnership' or salaried employment models. Advertising 'variety' for new GPs appears sensible given worldwide workforce shortages and the promise of work–life balance from adaptable work hours. When asked about career intentions, medical students expressing interest in family medicine frequently add the caveat 'GP with a special interest'. Graduates are attracted to developing expertise in subspecialties and working in different contexts. Yet, in supporting career flexibility, we may in fact diminish the breadth of thinking as the cornerstone of general practice expertise and increase the vulnerability of GP careers. In this article, the authors reflect on the untoward clinical and educational consequences of 'pick-and-mix general practice' as a potentially counter-productive message capable of eroding the complex nature of general practice work.

R Abrams, G Wong, K Mahtani, S Tierney, A-M Boylan, N Roberts, S Park (2020)How useful is home visit delegation in general practice? A realist review, In: British Journal of General Practice Royal College of General Practitioners
Maura MacPhee, Geoffrey Wong, Ruth Abrams, Katelyn Merrett (2020)Team Processes in Canadian Primary HealthCare : A Realist Review Protocol, In: Healthcare Quarterly23(2)pp. 50-57 Longwoods Publishing

To provide effective, comprehensive care to increasingly complex patients in Canadian communities, healthcare providers are shifting from solo providers of primary care to interprofessional, team-based primary healthcare services. Team-based care is considered one of the most effective means of caring for complex patients, including frail elders and individuals with chronic illness, mental health issues and addictions. Team-based care relies on effective team processes, the social or relational processes that enhance team collaboration and decision making. This realist review will highlight the team processes associated with high-performing teams and provide team development and sustainment strategies for providers and healthcare decision makers.

K Samsi, T Vandrevala, R Abrams, J Manthorpe (2017)"Working to the end": Experiences of the home care workforce providing end of life care, In: Home Care Research Forum, September 2017 King's College London

The study investigated the experiences of home care workers and managers supporting people with dementia to live in their own homes up to the end of life. The presentation will specifically elaborate on the theme of “perceptions of a client’s death”, which includes home care workers’ experiences of the death, the relevance of ‘emotional labour’ in their actions and reactions, and the support available to them.

Ruth Abrams, Geoff Wong, Julia Hamer-Hunt, Bernard Gudgin, Stephanie Tierney, Shoba Dawson, Anne-Marie Boylan, Sophie Park (2020)The role (or not) of patients and the public in realist reviews National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Today, patient and public involvement (PPI) in research activities – as contributors rather than participants – is an expected component of health-related studies [1]. Researchers are increasingly held to account for facilitating such involvement and for reporting it accurately in papers they write [2-3]. PPI has become commonplace in empirical, primary research, but it is less readily adopted within evidence synthesis. Evidence synthesis, an umbrella term for different approaches to combining existing literature, includes realist reviews. Realist reviews intend to explore what works, for whom and in what contexts, most commonly for a specific healthcare intervention or innovation [4]. Involving patients and the public within realist reviews has received much less attention than for other forms of evidence synthesis [5-6]. Having recently conducted a number of realist reviews, we reflected on PPI within these pieces of research. Two broad and important issues emerged - why are patient and public contributors being involved and how? We recognised that the need for and purpose of PPI differed between our reviews, as did the processes for involvement. Looking back across our reviews, we have generated the following prompts for researchers (see table 1) that would have been helpful to consider prior to the start of our realist reviews. These prompts have been iteratively developed by the research team with the help from two patient contributors involved in our reviews. We intend for these prompts to act as points of reflection for researchers doing realist reviews. These prompts remind researchers to clarify why and how they will involve patient and public contributors.

S. Park, R. Abrams (2019)Delegating home visits in general practice through a realist review: Exploring the Contexts, Mechanisms and Outcomes, In: Proceedings of SAPC ASM 2019 Society for Academic Primary Care

Problem Recent policies including the NHS long term plan (NHS, 2019) and the new GP contract (BMA, 2019) have re-shaped ways of working in General Practice. In particular, multidisciplinary teams and workforce expansion are seeing the shifting, sharing, mixing and delegation of traditional GP tasks to other staff groups such as community paramedics. One of these tasks is the delegation of patient home visits in order to reduce both GP workload and hospital admissions. Yet the mechanisms of delegation (i.e. how and why delegation occurs) remain opaque and are likely to be highly dependent on a range of contexts. Our synthesis of published evidence aims to explore the ways in which delegation of a home visit relies on context which subsequently affects both patient outcomes and clinical workload within primary care settings. Approach Using a realist approach we have synthesised a range of data including qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research in addition to grey literature. We have followed the systematic realist review stages advocated by Pawson, making visible the causal explanations of contexts and mechanisms in relation to outcomes regarding delegated home visits through our programme theory. Findings Contexts such as the nature of employment, patient conditions and GP perspectives to delegation will be articulated. The impact on patient satisfaction and clinical workload will be discussed in relation to outcomes. Mechanisms such as risk tolerance and trust will be elucidated and the tensions between multi-disciplinary professional identities will be highlighted. Consequences Our findings and causal explanations are anticipated to produce review findings that may help with future implementation of delegated home visits and provide guidance to support GP decision-making to delegate home visits to patients (or not).

ANNA CONOLLY, RUTH ABRAMS, Emma Rowland, Ruth Harris, Keith Couper, Danny Kelly, Bridie Kent, JILL MABEN (2022)‘What is the matter with me?’ or a ‘badge of honour’: Nurses’ constructions of resilience during Covid-19., In: Global qualitative nursing research. Sage

Abstract It has long been known that nursing work is challenging and has the potential for negative impacts. During the COVID-19 pandemic most nurses’ working landscapes altered dramatically and many faced unprecedented challenges. Resilience is a contested term that has been used with increasing prevalence in healthcare with health professionals encouraging a ‘tool-box’ of stress management techniques and resilience-building skills. Drawing on narrative interview data (n=27) from the Impact of Covid on Nurses (ICON) qualitative study we examine how nurses conceptualised resilience during COVID-19 and the impacts this had on their mental wellbeing. We argue here that it is paramount that nurses are not blamed for experiencing workplace stress when perceived not to be resilient ‘enough’, particularly when expressing what may be deemed to be normal and appropriate reactions given the extreme circumstances and context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Alaa Alghamdi, RUTH ABRAMS, J Bailey, Paula Alves, S Park (2022)Causal explanations for patient engagement with primary care services in Saudi Arabia: a realist review protocol, In: BMJ open12(4)e055959

Saudi Arabia (SA) has a rapidly developing universal healthcare system which is maturing from its hospital focused origins. However, health service usage suggests that up to 65% of the cases seen in emergency departments were classified as non-urgent and could have been appropriately managed in primary healthcare (PHC) settings. Primary care development in SA has lagged behind secondary care, and evidence suggests that Saudi citizens are currently ambivalent or dissatisfied with their PHC services. Previous research has focused on the quality and patient satisfaction of PHC services in SA. Yet, uncertainty still exists about causal explanations for patient engagement with PHC services and what refinements are needed for PHC. Less attention has been paid to how patient engagement strategies might work differently, which is increasingly recognised as important in PHC services. The aim of this review is to understand the causal explanations for patient engagement with PHC and to generate theory of how the intended outcome of patient engagement with PHC in SA might be achieved through identified contexts and mechanisms. A realist review approach will be used to synthesise the evidence. Databases including Medline, EMBASE and CINAHL will be searched. Literature will be included if it has relevance to the research question, and is trustworthy in nature. All document types will be screened including peer reviewed articles, relevant grey literature and related media items. All study types will be included. Stakeholders' feedback will also inform our review. A realist approach is suitable for this review because patient engagement with PHC services is a complex phenomenon. A range of different relevant data will be included in the following stages: developing an initial programme theory, searching the evidence, selecting data, extracting data, synthesising data and refining the programme theory. This study will use secondary data, and stakeholders are involved only to shape our understanding of the important contexts in patient engagement; hence, a formal ethics review is not required. Findings will be disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal and at relevant conferences. CRD42020175955.

K Samsi, T Vandrevala, R Abrams, V D'Astous, J Manthorpe (2016)Supporting the homecare workforce in providing care for people with dementia up to the end of life: Findings from a systematic review, In: Proceedings of the inaugural Home Care Research Forum 2016 King's College London
Ruth Abrams, Tushna Vandrevala, Kritika Samsi, Jill Manthorpe (2019)The need for flexibility when negotiating professional boundaries in the context of home care, dementia and end of life, In: Ageing and Society39(9)pp. 1976-1995 Cambridge University Press

Professional boundaries may help care staff to clarify their role, manage risk and safeguard vulnerable clients. Yet there is a scarcity of evidence on how professional boundaries are negotiated in a non-clinical environment (e.g. the home) by the home-care workforce in the context of complex care needs (e.g. dementia, end-of-life care). Through analysis of semi-structured interviews, we investigated the experiences of home-care workers (N = 30) and their managers (N = 13) working for a range of home-care services in the South-East and London regions of England in 2016–17. Findings from this study indicate that home-care workers and their managers have clear perceptions of job role boundaries, yet these are modified in dementia care, particularly at end of life which routinely requires adaptability and flexibility. As a lone worker in a client's home, there may be challenges relating to safeguarding and risk to both clients and workers. The working environment exacerbates this, particularly during end-of-life care where emotional attachments to both clients and their family may affect the maintenance of professional boundaries. There is a need to adopt context-specific, flexible and inclusive attitudes to professional boundaries, which reconceptualise these to include relational care and atypical workplace conventions. Pre-set boundaries which safeguard clients and workers through psychological contracts may help to alleviate to some extent the pressure of the emotional labour undertaken by home-care workers.

Stephanie Tierney, Ruth Abrams (2019)Getting the most from freedom of information requests as part of a realist review: Finding treasure or futile endeavour? National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

In this blog, we reflect on our attempts to seek information from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England, using freedom of information (FOI) requests, to contribute to our development of two realist reviews we are working on.

Jill Maben, Linda Hoinville, Dawn Querstret, Cath Taylor, Magdalena Zasada, Ruth Abrams (2021)Living life in limbo: experiences of healthcare professionals during the HCPC fitness to practice investigation process in the UK, In: BMC Health Services Research21839 BMC

Background It is the responsibility of healthcare regulators to ensure healthcare professionals remain fit for practice in healthcare settings. If there are concerns about an individual healthcare professional they may undergo a fitness to practice investigation. This process is known to be hugely stressful for doctors and social workers, but little is known about the impact of this experience on other professions. This study explores the experiences of registrants going through the process of being reported to the UK’s Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and attending fitness to practice (FTP) hearings. We discuss the implications of this process on registrants’ wellbeing and, from our findings, present recommendations based on registrants experiences. In doing so we articulate the structural processes of the HCPC FTP process and the impact this has on individuals. Methods This study uses semi-structured interviews and framework analysis to explore the experiences of 15 registrants who had completed the FTP process. Participants were sampled for maximum variation and were selected to reflect the range of possible processes and outcomes through the FTP process. Results The psychological impact of undergoing a FTP process was significant for the majority of participants. Their stories described influences on their wellbeing at both a macro (institutional/organisational) and micro (individual) level. A lack of information, long length of time for the process and poor support avenues were macro factors impacting on the ability of registrants to cope with their experiences (theme 1). These macro factors led to feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability and threat of ruin for many registrants (theme 2). Suggested improvements (theme 3) included better psychological support (e.g. signposting or provision); proportional processes to the incident (e.g. mediation instead of hearings); and taking context into account. Conclusions Findings suggest that improvements to both the structure and conduct of the FTP process are warranted. Implementation of better signposting for support both during and after a FTP process may improve psychological wellbeing. There may also be value in considering alternative ways of organising the FTP process to enable greater consideration of and flexibility for registrants’ context and how they are investigated.

Martina Kelly, Sophie Park, Ruth Abrams (2019)A Scoping Review on Generalism: core concepts for clinical training and practice, In: Proceedings of the 47th NAPCRG Annual Meeting North American Primary Care Research Group

Context: Family Medicine is being challenged to articulate the nature of Generalist work. International challenges include: measurement, quality assurance and organisation of clinical work; and shaping of clinical curricula content. Organisation of care in the UK is shifting family medicine away from comprehensive negotiation of 'patient problems' towards specialised management of complexity and multi-morbidity. Consequences include an assumption that patients can problem-set and appropriately identify needs, alongside implications for healthcare workers’ identities. In Canada, the increasing diversification of family physician roles, risks losing sight of what is core to generalist practice. It is therefore crucial to articulate the nature of 'Generalism' to sustain the legitimacy of family medicine and plan for workforce and capacity building alongside construction of relevant future education endeavours. Objective: To identify, synthesize and map concepts described in international research and policy literature that underpin 'Generalism'. Study Design: Scoping review Dataset: Systematic search of electronic databases (Pubmed, Psycinfo, OVID Healthstar, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest Dissertations). Inclusion of quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method studies, conceptual papers and grey literature, supplemented by citation searching and contact with primary authors. Search terms are being trialed iteratively. Exploded MeSH headings, database-specific controlled vocabulary and free text will be employed to ensure breadth and depth of coverage. Truncation and appropriate Boolean operators will be employed. Population: English-language studies, published in last 10 years in medicine (Family Medicine, internal medicine, paediatrics, psychiatry, surgery). Excluding: other health care professionals. Outcome Measures: Descriptive summaries (who is talking about generalism, where, definitions used), conceptual map of under-pinning principles and concepts of ‘Generalism’ (what); similarities and differences between contexts, disciplines; and identification of areas for future research. Results: Preliminary findings will be presented at a stakeholder meeting with in Nov, 2019. Expected Outcomes: Our findings will support colleagues to make explicit, support and sustain principles of Generalism in service and education future planning.

Kritika Samsi, Jill Manthorpe, Tushna Vandrevala, Ruth Abrams, I-ling Yeh, Valerie D'Astous (2017)'Working to the end': experiences of the home care workforce providing end-of-life care, In: Alzheimer's & Dementia13(7)pp. P1456-P1457 Elsevier

Background The experiences and beliefs of the home care workforce supporting people with dementia to live in their own homes up to the end of life have been relatively ignored in research. Methods This qualitative empirical study conducted in 2016, interviewed 28 home care workers and 12 managers from a range of home care agencies in South-East England and London. Framework analysis was conducted to identify themes or consistencies in the data. Results Preliminary findings suggest that blurred boundaries, the need for communication, the constant flux of a home care worker’s role and their perceptions of a client’s death were important factors in their work. This paper elaborates on the theme of “perceptions of a client’s death”. This encompasses participants’ experiences of a client’s death; the relevance of ‘emotional labour’ to explain the impact of their actions and reactions; and support in place to contextualise their experiences. Participants described close relationships with clients, at times resulting in strong attachments that made the process of grieving harder. A blurring of boundaries was reported regarding their role when the client’s death occurred, with some families wanting to be left alone, whilst current employment practices require the worker to stay in the home until professionals arrived. Moreover, home care workers were generally instructed not to touch the body, while some family requested assistance with cleaning, laying out, preparing or moving the body. Participants reported a range of sources of support, mainly from personal family and friends, and other colleagues. However, only a small proportion of staff reported being offered individual telephone support or group supervision to discuss work experiences. Many worked in isolation and felt there were few avenues for support from their employers. Conclusions Home care workers provide care to people with dementia at the end of life in isolation, with many experiencing lack of clarity in their caring role and limited support as their client nears the end of their life. Preliminary findings from this study may be helpful in developing support resources for home care practice and human resources management.

Stephanie Tierney, Geoff Wong, Nia Roberts, Anne-Marie Boylan, Sophie Park, Ruth Abrams, Joanne Reeve, Veronika Williams, Kamal R. Mahtani (2020)Supporting social prescribing in primary care by linking people to local assets: a realist review, In: BMC Medicine1849 BMC

Background Social prescribing is a way of addressing the ‘non-medical’ needs (e.g. loneliness, debt, housing problems) that can affect people’s health and well-being. Connector schemes (e.g. delivered by care navigators or link workers) have become a key component to social prescribing’s delivery. Those in this role support patients by either (a) signposting them to relevant local assets (e.g. groups, organisations, charities, activities, events) or (b) taking time to assist them in identifying and prioritising their ‘non-medical’ needs and connecting them to relevant local assets. To understand how such connector schemes work, for whom, why and in what circumstances, we conducted a realist review. Method A search of electronic databases was supplemented with Google alerts and reference checking to locate grey literature. In addition, we sent a Freedom of Information request to all Clinical Commissioning Groups in England to identify any further evaluations of social prescribing connector schemes. Included studies were from the UK and focused on connector schemes for adult patients (18+ years) related to primary care. Results Our searches resulted in 118 included documents, from which data were extracted to produce context-mechanism-outcome configurations (CMOCs). These CMOCs underpinned our emerging programme theory that centred on the essential role of ‘buy-in’ and connections. This was refined further by turning to existing theories on (a) social capital and (b) patient activation. Conclusion Our realist review highlights how connector roles, especially link workers, represent a vehicle for accruing social capital (e.g. trust, sense of belonging, practical support). We propose that this then gives patients the confidence, motivation, connections, knowledge and skills to manage their own well-being, thereby reducing their reliance on GPs. We also emphasise within the programme theory situations that could result in unintended consequences (e.g. increased demand on GPs).

R Abrams, T Vandrevala, K Samsi, J Manthorpe, I Yeh, V D'Astous (2017)Blurred boundaries: home care workers’ experiences of providing care for people with dementia up to the end of life, In: Proceedings of the British Society of Gerontology 46th Annual Conference British Society of Gerontology

There is a lack of evidence on the experiences of the home care workforce on providing care up to the end of life for older people with dementia. Taking an inductive approach, this empirical study explored the subjective experiences and challenges facing the home care workforce caring for people with dementia, up to the end of life. Using semi-structured interviews and Framework Analysis, the experiences of 28 home care workers and their managers (n=12) were investigated in 2016 in a range of home care services in the South-East and London regions of England. The findings suggest that blurred boundaries, the need for communication, the constant flux of a home care worker’s role and their perceptions of a client’s death were important factors in their work. This paper elaborates on the theme of blurred boundaries. The nature of this work may result in personal attachments being formed with older clients and families beyond professional relationship. Many participants described experiencing a conflict between completing a task in the allocated time, alongside having the time to provide relationship-centred care to older people and often their spouses. Operating as a lone worker in situations of potential stress and distress creates environments where rigid employment relationships are hard to sustain. From the managers’ perspective, cultural boundaries and the role of the supervisor in helping maintain boundaries at a distance are explored. The importance of applying these findings to home care practice and human resources management will be discussed.

Jill Manthorpe, Tushna Vandrevala, Ruth Abrams, Kritika Samsi (2019)Working with colleagues and other professionals when caring for people with dementia at the end of life: home care workers’ experiences, In: International Journal of Care and Caring3(4)pp. 567-583 Policy Press

Caring for people with dementia often necessitates inter-professional and inter-agency working but there is limited evidence of how home care staff work as a team and with professionals from different agencies. Through analysis of semi-structured interviews, we explored the experiences of home care workers (n = 30) and managers of home care services (n = 13) in England (2016‐17). Both groups sought to collaboratively establish formal and informal practices of teamwork. Beyond the home care agency, experiences of interacting with the wider health and care workforce differed. More explicit encouragement of support for home care workers is needed by other professionals and their employers.

R. Abrams, S. Park (2018)Do early visiting services improve quality of care in primary care?, In: Proceedings of SPCR Showcase 2018 NIHR School for Primary Care Research
K Samsi, T Vandrevala, R Abrams, J Manthorpe (2017)Working to the end: Experiences of the home care workforce providing end of life care, In: Proceedings of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2017) Alzheimer's Society
Ruth Abrams, Kamal Mahtani, Sophie Park (2020)Visit delegation in general practice: Who is responsible now? National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Last month, GPs in England voted to reduce home visits as part of their core contractual activities. The argument for this removal was cited as a lack of capacity amongst GPs to undertake home visits amid increasingly demanding workloads. These results were met with some opposition, but the vote means that the British Medical Association (BMA) will now lobby NHS England to revise the core services provided by GPs. However, the impact of this decision on both patient care and the wider workforce remains unclear.

R Abrams, E Russell (2017)Making sense of multiple rejections after face-to-face interviews: The significance of feedback on applicant identities, In: Proceedings of the 18th European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology Congress: Enabling Change through Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP 2017) European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology

Extant selection and assessment literature predominantly utilises quantitative methodology and hypothetical job rejection scenarios to assess candidate rejection experiences following face-to-face interviews. This often overlooks more nuanced, lived experiences of real job seekers facing multiple rejections, reflective of current labour market turbulence. Informed by Karl Weick’s (1995) organisational sense-making approach, the present study sought to explore the subjective feelings and sense-making processes of actual job applicants. Using semi-structured interviews and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), the experiences of 10 active job seekers (rejected on 2-5 consecutive occasions following face-to-face interviews) were investigated. The effects of cumulative rejections on job seekers’ sense of identity and how they manage to make sense of these rejections was examined. Findings suggest that cumulative job rejections negatively affect social identity and feelings of self-worth, especially when sensemaking is hindered by a lack of, or inappropriate, feedback. Where constructive and job relevant feedback is delivered by an interview panel member, the rejected applicant is better able to make sense of the rejection in a way that supports self-efficacy and personal identity. IPA as a methodology is limited by its small sample size and therefore findings are not generalizable. Extending the preliminary findings from the present study to a range of assessment domains, with larger sample sizes, is now recommended. The importance of applying findings from across research fields to inform best practice in assessment and selection (e.g. to avoid undermining individual identity and esteem) is emphasised.

Ruth Abrams, Geoffrey Wong, Kamal Ram Mahtani, Stephanie Tierney, Anne-Marie Boylan, Nia Roberts, Sophie Park (2018)Understanding the impact of delegated home visiting services accessed via general practice by community-dwelling patients: a realist review protocol, In: BMJ Open8(11)e024876 BMJ Publishing Group

Introduction In western countries, early visiting services (EVS) have been proposed as a recent intervention to reduce both general practitioner workload and hospital admissions among housebound individuals experiencing a healthcare need within the community. EVS involves the delegation of the patient home visits to other staff groups such as paramedics or nursing staff. However, the principles of organising this care are unknown and it remains unclear how different contexts, such as patient conditions and the processes of organising EVS influence care outcomes. A review has been designed to understand how EVS are enacted and, specifically, who benefits, why, how and when in order to provide further insight into the design and delivery of EVS. Methods and analysis The purpose of this review is to produce findings that provide explanations of how and why EVS contexts influence their associated outcomes. Evidence on EVS will be consolidated through realist review—a theory-driven approach to evidence synthesis. A realist approach is needed as EVS is a complex intervention. What EVS achieve is likely to vary for different individuals and contexts. We expect to synthesise a range of relevant data such as qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method research in the following stages: devising an initial programme theory, searching evidence, selecting appropriate documents, extracting data, synthesising and refining the programme theory.

R Abrams, K Samsi, T Vandrevala, J Manthorpe (2016)Maids of all work? Investigating home care workers’ care for older people with dementia at end of life, In: Proceedings of 'Communities in Later Life: Engaging with Diversity' - 45th Annual BSG Conference, 2016 British Society of Gerontology

Home care workers provide practical care and support to many older people with dementia at home. They are the largest dementia care workforce. The personal and practical care they provide to older people may continue until they die (even if other professionals are involved). However, the role, experiences, beliefs and attitudes of home care workers providing care up to the end of life for people with dementia are often overlooked. There are limited numbers of studies that have addressed specifically how home care workers define and manage possible conflict, stress and competing demands; and these are hard to distinguish from research on other practitioners or covering settings outside the home. This 18 month qualitative, exploratory study began with a review of existing research evidence. Using systematic methods, we identified research covering home care, dementia and end of life. We searched key databases and data sources using relevant search terms, and reviewed the evidence by identifying themes in the papers and documents located, including NICE guidelines on home care and on end of life. This paper reports the findings of the review and the ways the evidence was used to inform fieldwork, including drawing on advice from the research advisory group in which older people and carers actively participated.

Ruth Abrams, A Sriranjan, S Park, W Coppola, M. Ferris (2020)Exploring stories of learning and professional development: interactions between GP personal tutors and medical students, In: Education for Primary Carepp. 1-7 Taylor and Francis

Background: The demanding environment at medical school results in some students being prone to a high risk of mental health issues. GMC recommendations include positioning personal tutors for pastoral support and to act as academic role models. Tutors who are clinicians, such as GPs, could help students develop their academic and professional narratives. Our study explores interactions between GP tutors and students and evaluates how personal tutoring can support the ways in which students respond to the medical school culture and its demands. Method: Six pairs of GP tutors and medical students had three personal tutor meetings over 9 months. Twelve meetings were recorded. A dialogical narrative analytical approach was used to assess how students’ problems and reflective processes were negotiated with tutors. Three themes were formed to consolidate findings. Results: Tutors’ affirmations helped students develop an alternative narrative to perfectionism focusing on ‘doing well’ and self-care. Reflection on students’ perceptions of a medical career were prompted by tutors who encouraged students to keep an open-minded and enthusiastic outlook. Active participation from students sometimes required tutors to relinquish hierarchical power and share personal experiences. Conclusion: GP tutors can help reframe student narratives of perfectionism and professionalism by expressing their vulnerabilities and working collaboratively. With clear guidance, there is potential for personal tutors working as GPs, to benefit students in the long run both academically and professionally. However, this should go hand in hand with a transformation of medical school culture to prevent sole focus on building student resilience.

T Vandrevala, K Samsi, R Abrams, J Manthorpe (2017)Role Ambiguity and Negotiating Blurred Boundaries: How do home care workers’ care for people with dementia up to the end of life?, In: Proceedings of the 27th Alzheimer Europe Annual Conference 2017 Alzheimer Europe
Ruth Abrams, Geoff Wong, Kamal R. Mahtani, Stephanie Tierney, Anne-Marie Boylan, Nia Roberts, Sophie Park (2020)Delegating home visits in general practice: a realist review on the impact on GP workload and patient care, In: British Journal of General Practice70(695)pp. 412-420 Royal College of General Practicioners

Background: UK general practice is being shaped by new ways of working. Traditional GP tasks are being delegated to other staff with the intention of reducing GPs’ workload and hospital admissions, and improving patients’ access to care. One such task is patient-requested home visits. However, it is unclear what impact delegated home visits may have, who might benefit, and under what circumstances. Aim: To explore how the process of delegating home visits works, for whom, and in what contexts. Design and setting A review of secondary data on home visit delegation processes in UK primary care settings. Method A realist approach was taken to reviewing data, which aims to provide causal explanations through the generation and articulation of contexts, mechanisms, and outcomes. A range of data has been used including news items, grey literature, and academic articles. Results: Data were synthesised from 70 documents. GPs may believe that delegating home visits is a risky option unless they have trust and experience with the wider multidisciplinary team. Internal systems such as technological infrastructure might help or hinder the delegation process. Healthcare professionals carrying out delegated home visits might benefit from being integrated into general practice but may feel that their clinical autonomy is limited by the delegation process. Patients report short-term satisfaction when visited by a healthcare professional other than a GP. The impact this has on long-term health outcomes and cost is less clear. Conclusion: The delegation of home visits may require a shift in patient expectation about who undertakes care. Professional expectations may also require a shift, having implications for the balance of staffing between primary and secondary care, and the training of healthcare professionals.

Sophie Park, Ruth Abrams, Geoff Wong, Gene Feder, Kamal R Mahtani, John Barber, Chris Salisbury (2019)Reorganisation of general practice: be careful what you wish for, In: British Journal of General Practice69(687)pp. 517-518 Royal College of General Practitioners

With the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan and the renewal of the GP Contract, it is timely to consider what we value within general practice. In this article we consider normative ways of thinking about general practice and the implications for primary healthcare organisation and funding. We examine some of the opportunities and challenges that current 'common sense' thinking produces, shaping ways in which particular 'problems' and 'solutions' are constructed and accepted.3 We discuss potential 'gaps' or 'alternative' ways of thinking and their potential contribution to future policy and practice.

Ashvanthi Nadira Sriranjan, Ruth Abrams, Geoff Wong, Sophie Park (2020)Towards an understanding of GPs’ viewpoint on diagnosing postnatal depression in general practice: a small-scale realist evaluation, In: Primary Health Care Research & Development21(e42)pp. 1-8 Cambridge University Press

Background: Less than half of postnatal depression cases are identified in routine clinical assessment. Guidelines and current literature suggest that general practitioners (GPs) may have an opportunistic role in detecting postnatal depression due to their early contact and existing rapport with many new mothers. There is limited research on the diagnostic approaches chosen by GPs in different GP−patient contexts. Our small-scale study evaluates the thought processes of seven GPs based in one practice when forming a clinical diagnosis of postnatal depression under different contexts. Methods: Seven GP participants were interviewed using case vignettes about postnatal depression, based on an adapted Johari's window framework. A realist approach to analysis was undertaken with the intention of understanding GPs' responses to different situations. Context−mechanism−outcome configurations were constructed, and a programme theory was formed to consolidate the findings. Findings: Findings suggest that diagnoses may be a clinician-led or collaborative process between GP and patient. In collaborative contexts , stigmatising views were addressed by GPs, time for self-reflection was encouraged and mothers' views were accounted for. Clinician-led diagnoses often occurred in contexts where there was a lack of acknowledgement of symptoms on behalf of the patient or where safety was a concern. The personal and clinical experience of GPs themselves, as well as effective communication channels with other primary care professionals, was significant mechanisms. Conclusion: GPs use a variety of strategies to support patient disclosure and acceptance of their condition. The complexity of GP−patient contexts may influence the clinical thought process. We address some of the gaps in existing literature by exploring postnatal depression diagnosis in primary care and provide tentative explanations to suggest what works, for whom and in what contexts.

Ruth Abrams, Sophie Park, Geoff Wong, Juhi Rastogi, Anne-Marie Boylan, Stephanie Tierney, Mila Petrova, Shoba Dawson, Nia Roberts (2020)Lost in reviews: Looking for the involvement of stakeholders, patients, public and other non-researcher contributors in realist reviews, In: Research Synthesis Methods

The involvement of non‐researcher contributors (eg, stakeholders, patients and the public, decision and policy makers, experts, lay contributors) has taken a variety of forms within evidence syntheses. Realist reviews are a form of evidence synthesis that involves non‐researcher contributors yet this practice has received little attention. In particular, the role of patient and public involvement (PPI) has not been clearly documented. This review of reviews describes the ways in which contributor involvement, including PPI, is documented within healthcare realist reviews published over the last five years. A total of 448 papers published between 2014 and 2019 were screened, yielding 71 full‐text papers included in this review. Statements about contributor involvement were synthesized across each review using framework analysis. Three themes are described in this article including nomenclature, nature of involvement, and reporting impact. Papers indicate that contributor involvement in realist reviews refers to stakeholders, experts, or advisory groups (ie, professionals, clinicians, or academics). Patients and the public are occasionally subsumed into these groups and in doing so, the nature and impact of their involvement become challenging to identify and at times, is lost completely. Our review findings indicate a need for the realist review community to develop guidance to support researchers in their future collaboration with contributors, including patients and the public.