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Can Healthcare Assistant Training (CHAT) improve the relational care of older people? A developmental and feasibility study of a complex intervention

Arthur, Antony; Aldus, Clare; Sarre, Sophie; Maben, Jill; Wharrad, Heather; Schneider, Justine M.; Barton, Garry; Argyle, Elaine; Clark, Allan; Nouri, Fiona; Nicholson, Caroline


Antony Arthur

Clare Aldus

Sophie Sarre

Jill Maben

Professor of Elearning and Healthinformatics

Justine M. Schneider

Garry Barton

Elaine Argyle

Allan Clark

Caroline Nicholson


Background: Older people account for an increasing proportion of those receiving NHS acute care. The quality of healthcare delivered to older people has come under increased scrutiny. Healthcare assistants (HCAs) provide much of the direct care of older people in hospital. Patients’ experience of care tends to be based on the relational aspects of that care including dignity, empathy and emotional support.
Objective(s): We aimed to: understand the relational care training needs of HCAs caring for older people; design a relational care training intervention for HCAs; and assess the feasibility of a cluster-randomised controlled trial to test the new intervention against HCA training as usual.
Design: (1) Telephone survey of all NHS hospital Trusts in England to assess current HCA training provision; (2) focus groups of older people and carers and (3) semi-structured interviews with HCAs and other care staff to establish training needs and inform intervention development; (4) feasibility cluster-randomised controlled trial.
Setting: (1) All acute NHS hospital Trusts in England; (2,3,4) Three acute NHS hospital Trusts in England and the populations they serve.
Participants: (1) 113 of 161 (70.2%) Trusts took part in the telephone survey; (2) 29 older people or carer participants of three focus groups; (3) 30 HCA and 24 ‘other staff’ interviewees; (4) 12 wards (four per Trust); 112 HCAs; 92 patients during the pre-randomisation period and 67 patients during the post-randomisation period.
Interventions: For the feasibility trial a training intervention (Older People’s Shoes) for HCAs developed as part of the study was compared with HCA training as usual.
Main outcome measures: Patient level outcomes were the experience of emotional care and quality of life during their hospital stay as measured by the Patient Evaluation of Emotional Care during Hospitalisation (PEECH) and the European Quality of Life (EQ-5D) questionnaires. HCA outcomes were empathy measured by the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ) and attitudes towards older people measured by the Age Group Evaluation and Description (AGED) Inventory. Ward level outcomes were the quality of HCA/patient interaction measured by the Quality of Interaction Scale (QUIS).
Results: (1) A third of Trust telephone survey participants reported HCA training content that we considered to be ‘relational care’. Training for HCAs is variable across Trusts and focused on new recruits. The biggest challenge for HCA training is getting HCAs released from ward duties. (2) Older people and carers are aware of the pressures ward staff are under but good relationships with care staff determines whether the experience of hospital is positive. (3) HCAs have training needs related to ‘difficult conversations’ with patients and relatives; they have particular preferences for learning styles that are not always reflected in available training. (4) In the feasibility trial 187 of the 192 planned ward observation sessions were completed; response to HCA questionnaires at baseline, eight and 12 weeks post-randomisation was 64.2%, 46.4% and 35.7% respectively; 57.2% of eligible patients returned completed questionnaires.
Limitations: This was an intervention development and feasibility study so no conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of the intervention.
Conclusions: The intervention had high acceptability among nurse trainers and HCA learners. Viability of a definitive trial is conditional on overcoming specific methodological (patient recruitment processes) and contextual (involvement of wider ward team) challenges.
Future work: Methods to ease the burden of questionnaire completion without compromising ethics or methodological rigour need to be explored.
Study registration: ISRCTN10385799

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2017
Journal Health Services and Delivery Research
Print ISSN 2050-4349
Electronic ISSN 2050-4357
Publisher NIHR Journals Library
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 10
APA6 Citation Arthur, A., Aldus, C., Sarre, S., Maben, J., Wharrad, H., Schneider, J. M., …Nicholson, C. (2017). Can Healthcare Assistant Training (CHAT) improve the relational care of older people? A developmental and feasibility study of a complex intervention. Health Services and Delivery Research, 5(10), doi:10.3310/hsdr05100. ISSN 2050-4349
Keywords Pilot; Feasibility; Cluster randomised controlled trial; Older people; Healthcare assistants; Nursing; Hospital care; Empathy; Training; Telephone survey; Focus groups; Interviews
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Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf
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