Creating Care Partnerships

Developing Research Practice Partnerships to deliver novel, sustainable collaborations between adult social care research and practice in the UK


There are many challenges in delivering social care that meets the needs of people who use care and support and their families and friends. Research has the potential to play a bigger role in improving these services. The purpose of this study is to develop, implement and evaluate an approach called Research Practice Partnerships (RPPs) in adult social care. RPPs are long-term collaborations between researchers and people working in social care that focus on doing and using research in practice. This approach has been tried and tested in the US, Australia and New Zealand with promising results.

Where will we carry out this study?

We have decided to base this study in care homes, as care homes face particular challenges to doing and using research – this has been brought into the spotlight by the current COVID crisis. Important work is already underway in care homes to build support for producing and using research. However, this work has not always made a big difference to how research is done or whether it is used to improve the experiences of people who use care and support.

The new Research Practice Partnerships

We are working with local teams to set up three new Research Practice Partnerships to work together over a period of three years. Each partnership will involve practitioners and researchers and will focus on those working in and with care homes for older people. The partnerships will aim to produce research that is more useful, usable and used.

The successful partnerships are based in Newcastle, Chester and Lancaster. The partnerships will have access to: the support of a co-design team to build a partnership to meet local needs, project support and training provided by Research in Practice throughout the three years, and funding of up to £100K available to each partnership over the course of the 3 years.

Our Approach

We will work with a wide range of people with experience in social care to design and test RPPs. We will use different types of research to understand how the partnerships work and what difference they make, for example, interviews, observing at meetings, collecting information through apps and surveys. We will include information on the costs involved in delivering RPPs. We will use a Theory of Change approach to understand whether the RPPs are successful. A Theory of Change approach will help us map out why we think RPPs will make a difference and what needs to happen at different stages to achieve the intended impact. We will work with our stakeholders on the Theory of Change and it will be a useful resource for the evaluation team.

If we find that RPPs make a difference, we will hold workshops at the end of the study to find ways to set up RPPs in other parts of England and in the other countries of the UK, as well as seeing whether RPPs could work in other types of social care, for example, home care. If the results of the study are less promising, the workshops will look instead at learning from the evaluation and making changes to the RPP approach to test in future studies.

Who will carry out this study?

This project draws together people with lived experience, a social care provider, adult social care researchers, people who work to support the better use of research in adult social care, designers, and experts in implementation, improvement and evaluation. Shaping Our Lives, an organisation led by people who use care and support, is part of the team and will help the project to involve people with lived experience throughout the study and will co-lead the design phase.


National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme (funded under the 19/117 Adult Social Care Partnership call)

Project partners

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (lead)

London School of Economics

Sheffield Hallam University

Research in Practice


Point of Care Foundation

Shaping Our Lives

Walnut Care

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