Carrying out research studies

Irrespective of where the research is conducted, almost all research must receive both ethics and governance approval but all must meet the legal requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

At this point, many researchers will also need to consider the practicalities of carrying out the study. To successfully carry out a study in care homes, it is important that researchers consider the ethical and governance aspects unique to this environment.

This section provides researchers with examples of delivering studies and practical advice for conducting a study within a care home, including recruitment, set up, sharing of information, seeking consent and maintaining relationships.


The case studies below are real accounts, written by researchers and local network staff and provide information, ideas and lessons learned from carrying out research in care homes.

Getting care home staff involved in research

This dementia study found that involving care home staff in research activity improved their knowledge of dementia care and treatment, boosted their confidence and empowered them to influence other colleagues’ care practice.  This case study outlines the importance placed on clinical engagement, enthusiasm and working closely with staff, residents, and family members to conduct a study.

Successfully working with care homes

This case study outlines the experiences of nine care homes involved in an Antibiotic Associated Diarrhoea study. It describes the approach the researcher took to engaging the staff, bolstering  their enthusiasm, as well as  practical details about carrying out the study.

Utilising your Research Network to boost recruitment

NIHR CRN Thames Valley helped to deliver a UK wide, multicentre, randomised clinical trial involving care home residents within their local regions.  Through a designated team the Local Research Network developed creative and different ways of recruiting residents from care homes.

Staff become co- researchers

Researchers applied a unique approach to delivering research in care homes whereby care home staff were trained to become co-researchers. The results of the study indicate that involving staff in research potentially improves staff morale, confidence and general opinion of how the care home operates and delivers care.

Testing methods in the real world

Care home managers are often keen to engage with educational interventions that will benefit staff development and improve resident care. PiTStop! (Pilot trial of Stop Delirium! in older people) trial aimed to test the methods for a full trial of Stop Delirium!, an enhanced educational programme that seeks to reduce the poor outcomes associated with delirium through early detection, treatment and prevention. This case study details the experience of the PiTStop! research team and provides learning points for others wishing to conduct a research project in a care home.

Working in the field – lessons for care home researchers

We spoke to Julie Watson, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, about her research on the caring relationship between people with advanced dementia and care home staff. Julie reported on the lessons she’d learnt in setting up the project and carrying out the field work


The NIHR Clinical Research Network has experience in supporting research in all fields and the relevant network can provide advice and guidance to support study delivery. Specialist areas include dementia, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, primary care, stroke, diabetes etc. Details of Local Networks can be found at and for dementia visit

"People with dementia may be willing and able to discuss preferences even when they are no longer considered to have the capacity to make advance decisions in their legal form."

Jo Moriarty, Fellow Kings College London, August 2013

Information for funders

Funders need to take into account the reality of proposed recruitment strategies in research projects designed for care home residents, including engagement with care home staff and timescales for recruiting residents. A recruitment rate of 60% or more is usually only achievable when this has been addressed and time given to establishing good working relationships. Funders should also ensure that the researchers are planning to feedback their research findings to homes in accessible formats.

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