Unit 22- Research Methodology in Health and Social Care

Unit 22- Research Methodology in Health and Social Care; Function of Research.

P1- Explain the function of research in Health and Social Care.
Research is the planned process in which information or resources are collected. Research can be seen as an investigation into a study regarding materials and sources in order to gain knowledge and facts. Many organisations have research as an essential tool, though it is exceptional in the health and social care industry and can take days, months and even years to develop some research. The aim is to identify information which we do not know yet and find out the information which is already known to people, through research people can have a better understanding of what service users needs and find ways of improving the service and care towards them. Data can be collected for research which must always be up to date and evaluated or checked frequently, this can help by making comparisons to other pieces of information which has been found.

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There are many different functions of research which include developing new ideas and expanding knowledge; Research can be used to develop ideas which have already been produced but still need work to be done, research can assist and guide professionals or other people to create groundbreaking ideas. By developing new or improving ideas, resources and equipment which we already have is able to greatly improve and will have the potential to save lives. For example, in a Health and Social Care setting, healthcare professionals have the ability to improve medicine which could cure different illness or disease which can save the lives of many, By finding any new information which was gathered by research could help identify needs of certain individuals, if an individual was admitted to a hospital their background would be on file which would contain information on their past and current physical condition, this will assist and guide the healthcare professionals to give an insight on someone’s life, this relevant and up to date information can help the healthcare professionals in further investigation. The professional would be able to make different options for the type of treatment or care options that the individual needs in order to meet their individual needs. This links to identifying needs which is another function of research.

Identifying needs is important in day to day life but it is essential in Health and Social Care practices; Research can help find out which treatments work better for service users as an individual, research plays an important role in discovering new treatments or methods and ensuring that we use existing treatments in the best possible ways. Research can also find answers to things that are unknown, filling gaps in our knowledge and changing the way that healthcare professionals work. Another function of research is to prove theorists theories; Information that professionals find is extremely important and can be used to support or prove a theorists theory. A theory is a collection of ideas which are found to explain something, the theory could be used to justify, explain or account for a situation. Research can be used in multiple ways to source different pieces of information, some professionals may use experiments in a lab or through physical/ mental experiments on people, reading through books or looking online for studies, statistics or other key sources of information.

Testing harmfulness and benefits is a factor of research and can be one of the many factors in research, testing is vital and can give researchers different and varied results each time. An example of testing for harmfulness or benefits could be in the Health and Social Care setting of a research lab/ clinic; In the lab or clinic individuals may sign up to trial different types of medication or a course of treatment in exchange for a sum of money. The research is carried out by trained healthcare professionals who will monitor and examine each individual’s body and vital signs for any changes, this type of research is extremely important due to it can eliminate or show factors the professionals did not know off or it may counterbalance an existing illness or disease. Research which tests for harmful factors or benefits give healthcare professionals the information needed to improve or change the medication we use. Research which tests for harmfulness and benefits can also open doors for other parts of research such as highlighting gaps in the provision. Research is often carried out to identify gaps in Health and Social Care practice and settings. For example, research highlighted the unmet needs and gaps in the provision for teenagers in Wales with mental health problems.

By highlighting gaps in the provision research will encourage and guide to plan the provision, Healthcare professionals will be able to make preparations for future events of research. In a Health and Social Care setting of a Care Home, planning provision is a useful way to address the needs of service users and the healthcare professionals by providing all aspects of care including referral, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, transfer of care and discharge including care at the end of life. Providing support to develop self-care and promote rehabilitation and working in partnership with other services and external organisations, which include social services and other organisations.

Continuing with a Health and Social Care setting of a care home, another function of research could include monitoring progress of service users. This can include the progress of the staff and managements professional progress in the job or the residents health and well-being progress. Progress can be monitored by aiding or encouraging regular meetings to discuss topics of contemporary importance, which is up to date issues which may arise from staff or service user. Meetings and regular updates of care plans and profiles is the best way to aid reflection of the Healthcare setting, aiding reflection is finding new ways to better the setting and continuing to improve throughout time with all service users best interests in mind and consideration. By doing so the healthcare professionals are improving the practice, which is another function of research. Continuing to improve practice is extremely important in the Health and Social Care industry as things are always changing, such as equipment, methods, medication, policies and procedures.

P2- Discuss ethical issues relating to research in the Health and Social Care sector.
Ethics are a system of moral principles which each individual has, it affects how all people make decisions and lead their own lives. Ethics are concerned with what is good for individuals and society. There are guidelines which have been set in place by the government which provide a framework for ethical research and influences the code of ethics which apply to research that is carried out in the NHS and other external organisations in the United Kingdom.

An ethical issue is a problem, situation or issue that makes an individual, organisation or government party to choose between alternatives that must be looked into as ethical or unethical also known as right or wrong. Ethical issues may arise in the Health and Social Care provision, to make sure ethical issues do not arise there are four clauses which were designed to underpin all research. The first clause is to protect individuals from any sort of harm, the second clause is to ensure that individuals only participate voluntarily. The third clause is ensuring that any personal information relating to the research is treated confidentially and not shared with other people, their names must be kept private. The fourth clause is stipulating that the plan for any research is subject to independent scrutiny by experts. These four ethical principles have been written as guidelines and a set of boundaries to work within for research, they are not rules.

To prevent ethical issues, healthcare professionals and service users in the Health and Social Care practice follow a key to be able to conduct ethical research. How we can protect individuals from harm is by ensuring that the researcher considers the effects of the research on the participants behalf. If the healthcare professionals are conducting research on another individual their rights and feelings must be taken into consideration before the research is conducted to assure they are in good health physically and mentally, no research should cause maleficence, also known as harm, but this must be considered in the context of the research which is being done. For example, in a Health and Social Care setting of a hospital or doctors surgery, it would be unethical or wrong to make a child or extremely vulnerable individual upset and distressed. However, it is acceptable or ethically okay to use individuals for trial and testing for new medication and or drugs, testing for new medication may cause physical differences, changed and alterations in an individual’s body, this could be seen as an ethical harm which is concerned by the four previous principles if the medication tested has certain benefits. Beneficence is something which has a good effect or something that does good.

When healthcare professionals carry out research projects they must plan each detail, this includes the informed consent which must be debriefed to each individual who may or may not participate with their contribution to the research. The professionals must give the individual/service user the information they need before agreeing to take part in the research project. The information which must be given include, the overall purpose of the research (what the research is for and why they are doing it), what is expected of the individual if they take part (exactly what they will be doing and how they will do it), what or if there may be any risks involved (this means if there are side effects or other issues to come from the research), an entitlement to withdraw from the research project at any time (this means being able to say no or wanting to leave at any possible time) and finally, the researcher or professional should explain the participant about their human rights, most importantly this is explaining that they can withdraw when they please and to explain their confidentiality.

Confidentiality is when the participants information is kept safe, privately and not shared with anyone, the researcher must assure that all data and information about that individual can and will not be identified by anyone. This can be done by a system to stop people from being identified by others. For example, each participant could have an ID number which only the participant and the head researcher know about, only professionals with the correct authorization can access the numbers.

Confidentiality is extremely important for the protection for all those involved in the research; All those who are taking part in the research programme should be able to use their own judgement about the option to take part, they must think of the risks that may be associated with participation, sometimes it may be necessary to withhold some information in order to avoid some key knowledge about the research to affect how the individual responds to the research as it could affect the statistics and the outcome of the research project. For example, when trail and testing drugs or new medication the professionals do not tell the participants if they have taken the real drug or if they are taking the placebo, if the participant was told there would not be a fair trial and it could panic certain individuals who were on the real medication, this could cause them to over react and think things were happening to them that was not, this would make the trial in conclusive.

It is also important to stop the risk of bias in the research. Bias is a preference that could influence the judgment from being balanced and fair to all those involved for example, a judge in a court case may find an individual not guilty because the individual is a close family friend even when there is evidence to back up the case, this means the judge is biased towards that individual. Ethical approval is important and is needed; Research which is carried out in Health and Social Care settings such as hospitals, the NHS, community and care settings must have an ethical approval by a board who will decide whether you can start the research on the grounds that it is ethically moral; research must not start until it as been approved by the board. This means that all organisations must follow the correct procedure and submit a proposal for the ethics board to make a formal decision.

All healthcare professionals must be mindful of all the factors the ethical principles due to the fact they could create ethical problems; Professionals and service users must keep in mind all policies and procedures which protect individuals confidentiality and how they use the data and ensuring it is not misused and their human rights. Ethically the professionals must consider the vulnerability of the participant to ensure they are healthy mentally and physically, they must assess whether an individual is able to participate in the research project.