Glyndwr student’s PhD research aims to influence decision-making in health care

A new study aims to produce an over-arching decision-making healthcare model in North Wales by focusing on patients with dementia – a disease that costs the UK £26.3 billion a year.

The research, undertaken by Paul Brownbill for his PhD at Wrexham Glyndwr University, will explore and describe community hospital healthcare workers’ everyday decision-making in relation to people with dementia.

Paul picked three community hospitals across North Wales to observe and then report back his findings to Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board (BCUHB) with the hope of influencing and developing policy.

Paul, a former social worker who specialised in people living with dementia on hospital wards, said: “I am observing hospital staff decision-making processes, I’m not saying if they are the right or wrong decision, it’s more about how they came to that decision.

“This can be any decision made, including decisions where you don’t even realise the decision-making process carried out or the actual decision that you’ve made.”

The research observes healthcare staff, social workers and unqualified health staff on the wards.

850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, and this is estimated to rise to more than two million by 2051.

Paul, a post-grad researcher, is working with Wrexham Glyndwr University and University of South Wales, said: “I’ve always been interested in the dementia side of social work which I guess helped me decide to focus on people living with dementia admitted to community hospitals.

“By producing an account of practice in a community hospital, apparent influences on decision-making can be revealed. As the care of people with dementia often involves workers from various disciplinary backgrounds, this study intends to gather a wide range of perspectives with a view of developing a shared model of decision-making.”

The research involves conducting interviews with those who have direct impact on this vulnerable group of people.

Dr Nikki Lloyd-Jones, senior lecturer in Glyndwr’s School of Social and Life Sciences and Paul’s PhD supervisor, said: “PhD studies like Paul’s are essential not only because, as in the case of his topic of dementia care in the community, the findings of his research will be of relevant interest to a wide range of people and service providers; by undertaking the project according to the exacting academic standards expected of a doctoral level study, the final report will be able to make a credible contribution to wider debate about future services.”

The study is funded by Health and Care Research Wales (formerly known as the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research, NISCHR) and aims to make explicit, social and professional paradigms of influence on decision-making by exploring the context of ‘normal’ everyday activity and the use of language.