The Association for Dementia Studies was awarded funding for this two-year project by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB), Research for Social Care Programme. Commencing January 2021, this research is using a realist approach to gather together learning from three well-established Meeting Centres in Droitwich Spa, Leominster and Powys on how they have overcome challenges to keep going long term, beyond their initial start-up phase, in a climate where such initiatives are often forced to fold after only a short period.
A Meeting Centre is a local resource, operating out of ordinary community buildings, that offers on-going warm and friendly expert support to people with mild to moderate dementia and their families. At the heart of the Meeting Centre is a social club where people meet to have fun, talk to others and get help that focusses on what they need. Meeting Centres are based on sound research evidence on what helps people to cope well in adjusting to living with the symptoms and changes that dementia brings.
This new research involving Meeting Centres aims to uncover the cause-and-effect factors at play – how context (background circumstances) can trigger mechanisms (processes within people and organisations) to produce desirable or undesirable outcomes that have a bearing on whether a Meeting Centre can keep going long term. It builds on an earlier realist review (SCI-Dem) which built a complex theory about this based on a review of the literature and stakeholder opinion. By learning more about the particular challenges facing the centres under study, we hope to develop better strategies to overcome those challenges – and to make recommendations to others across the UK.
The research is being conducted with collaborators from all three Meeting Centres, as well as the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, London School of Economics, the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group and Worcestershire County Council. The research will also include a Discrete Choice Experiment surveying the preferences of members of Meeting Centres across the UK, to learn what elements of Meeting Centres members most value, what they would or wouldn’t be willing to pay for, and how much, to get a clearer idea of the economic factors in running a Meeting Centre going forward.
It will also take into account the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions, which have meant people have often not been able to meet physically (maintaining support and social connection in other ways via the Meeting Centre network) or have had to meet in reduced numbers under restricted conditions.
The Get Real project was funded as part of the NIHR’s Research for Social Care call (RfSC) which has given a total of £2.15 million to new research into adult social care in 2021, as part of NIHR’s commitment to improving social care through high quality evidence and building capacity for research in this field.