From research to the real world

This week one of our Senior Lecturers Isabelle Latham talks about her experiences of putting research into practice. Over to you Izzie:

Over the last few months I’ve had had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of transferring research into the real world. This is a topic close to my heart as my first contact with people living with dementia was in my early career as a care assistant in care homes. Ever since then I’ve been passionate about skilling-up and celebrating the work done by the people in frontline roles because they are the people that make a difference to someone’s day-to-day life.

As researchers, one of the challenges we face is how to make sure that the research we conduct actually makes a difference in the real world – it’s very easy for a successful research project report to gather dust on everyone’s shelves without having an impact on the lives of people living with dementia and those who care for them.

Image of arrows to illustrate the transfer of knowledge

In academia making an impact from research is known by the very dry term “knowledge transfer”, but it is something that we pride ourselves in at ADS. Our best example has been from a project known as ‘FITS into Practice’.

A long journey

This started life for us as a 2-year research project, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, to scale up a training and support programme that had shown to be impactful in reducing anti-psychotic use for residents with dementia in care homes. This is important as it is known that inappropriate prescribing of anti-psychotics can be harmful for older people living with dementia [1]. The original model was known as ‘FITS’ – Focussed Interventions, Training and Support and whilst it was successful, it was also very resource-intensive for care homes and so we needed to try and make it simpler and cheaper for care homes if it was going to make an impact across the UK.

This is what we did in the ‘FITS into Practice’ research.

We were able to create an approach that replicated the positive impact of the original research but with a model that was far more achievable for care homes across the UK [2]. We did this by creating “expert practitioners”. These expert practitioners were known as Dementia Practice Development Coaches (DPDCs). DPDC’s trained and supported direct care staff who had been nominated from care homes. The FITS into Practice Programme consists of structured teaching delivered by the DPDC and follow up support for implementation.

However, it didn’t end there! Whilst the research ended in 2015 we wanted to find a way to create more Expert Practitioners across the UK. We did this by creating a part-time module that people could undertake here at the University of Worcester. On the module, students (who are usually dementia trainers or leads in health and care organisations) learn all about the FITS into Practice programme and implement it through their own organisation. When they pass the module they become a DPDC.
The process of going from the FITS research to becoming a Dementia Practice Development Coach

So, why am I so excited now?

Because we’ve starting to see the fruits of our labour! The year-long module has run twice and we have 15 ADS alumni out in the world applying the FITS into Practice programme. We meet with them every year to update them on the latest evidence and when I met them all in February this year I was delighted and proud to hear all their news. Here are the headlines:

  • Here, there and everywhere! Some of the DPDCs have changed the job roles and organisations, but they’re still running the FITS into Practice Programme.
  • We’ve gone international! We have a qualified DPDC working in Ireland and one focussing on changing care in Zimbabwe.
  • We’re prize winners! One of the DPDC’s won the prestigious ‘Hennell Award’ for the FITS inspired work she had done in her care home. This came alongside her 15 year anniversary celebration at the home.
  • Outstanding AGAIN! One of DPDCs shared the amazing news that her care home has achieved an outstanding rating from CQC for the second consecutive time! This is very hard to do. The student, Patricia Gooden-Husbands, sent us this message:

I am pleased to inform you that Eton House Residential Home has achieved another overall OUTSTANDING rating. The report will be published soon and (it) mentions the VIPS framework, and the FITS into Practice programme as evidence based practice. I am so proud to have used these evidence bases in practice and achieved this level of high standards of care for those living with dementia

We’re running this module again starting September 2019. So…..are YOU up for the challenge?

For more information on the module “Advanced Practice in Person-centred Dementia Care”, or our other modules, awards or education opportunities, contact us at


[1] Fossey, J. et al. (2006) Effect of enhanced psycho-social care on anti-psychotic use in nursing home residents with severe dementia: a cluster randomised trial. British Medical Journal 332 pp.756-58

[2] 3 Brooker, D. et al (2015) FITS into Practice; translating research into practice in reducing the use of anti-psychotic medication for people with dementia living in care homes. Aging and Mental Health 20:7 pp.709-718

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