Phase one of Ophelia: needs assessment

Peer support in community settings, Oldham UK


The aim of this project was to use the Ophelia process to conduct a needs assessment from which to develop interventions to better meet the needs of parents in relation to acute illness in children under 5 years old. A primary target group was parents from harder-to-reach populations. This report describes Phase 1 of the Ophelia process, the needs assessment.

Setting

  Location: Oldham, near Manchester, England    Type of organisation: Community development organisation and general practitioner (GP) clinics    Type of intervention: Peer support in community settings

Failsworth and Hollinwood are towns within the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, in Greater Manchester, England. Medical practices in the region see large numbers of children under 5 years, many of whom live in poverty. This project was led by a large GP cluster in the region and Voluntary Action Oldham (VAO), a community development organisation that aims to build communities through volunteering and social action. VAO has a vast array of networks and knowledge of services in the Oldham area. In March 2016, the Office for National Statistics found Oldham to be the most deprived town in England.

What was the problem?

Frequent attendance of parents/carers with children under 5 years of age was a concern across the GP cluster. However, medical staff had difficulties dealing with high daily workloads, which led to missed opportunities to engage parents/carers in meaningful conversations about the health and wellbeing of both the children and the parents. The aim of the project was to use the Ophelia process to conduct a needs assessment from which to develop interventions to better meet the needs of parents in relation to acute illness in children under 5 years old. A primary target group was parents from harder-to-reach populations. This report describes Phase 1 of the Ophelia process, the needs assessment.

Between January and March 2016, VAO staff and volunteers collected health literacy, sociodemographic and service use data from 179 adults who were parents/carers of children aged 5 and under. Data was collected from people at medical clinics, libraries, community centres and church groups. Participants were asked which surgery they were registered with; how many children under 5 they cared for and any health conditions of the children; and their use of health services for the children under 5 who were in their care. Health service use data included the number of times they attended the GP, were seen at Accident and Emergency, or called the telephone nurse-triage service over the previous 12 months. Two workshops were held to discuss the findings: one with carers, and one with health professionals including GPs and practice staff, health visitors and school nurses, and community workers from the voluntary sector.

Findings from the needs assessment identified these key ideas:

·         Build links between community organisations, GP practices and other service providers.

·         Train volunteers as peer mentors/ health champions (linked to GP practices).

·         Provide training for health workers in communication and engagement.

·         Provide people with better access to reliable information from trustworthy sources.

·         Make written and verbal information easier to understand.

·         Improve referral systems for GPs (e.g., single point of referral).

What solutions were found?

Based on these findings, an intervention was developed to train a network of volunteers from across Failsworth and Hollinwood to become community-based peer educators (‘community grannies’). Volunteers were recruited by GPs from their pool of patients. Training for the community grannies was provided to support volunteers to gain the confidence and skills needed to advise parents of under 5 year olds about the best way to look after an unwell child: whether it be self-care, or seeing a pharmacist, GP or emergency service. The community grannies would meet with other parents in informal settings such as cafés, the library or at local community events.

What was the impact?

A detailed implementation and evaluation plan of the community grannies intervention was developed. The intervention is currently being pilot tested prior to wider implementation.

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