‘A heart for both science and for care’: the NICHE Leeds group visit to Maastricht

Autumn 2018 saw the launch of Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds (NICHE-Leeds). This a partnership between care homes and academia. It is based on a Dutch model which started 20+ years ago called the Academic Collaborative Centre on Care for Older People (ACC-COP, or the “living lab” for short). The model emphasises the leadership, expertise, and interdisciplinary collaboration needed for care homes to innovate in an efficient, effective and sustainable way. You can read more about the NICHE Leeds way of working here.

In autumn 2018 we launched NICHE-Leeds. Six months on, our visit to Maastricht provided a timely opportunity to meet the founders of the Dutch “living lab” and exchange experiences of our ways of working to enhance care, life and work in care homes through a partnership between academia and care. Our visit was supported by the University’s International Researcher Mobility Scheme.

A 4am start on 18th March saw us arriving in Amsterdam early, and then enjoyed the novelty of a double-decker train journey to Maastricht! After a warm welcome from the University of Maastricht staff, we spent time describing NICHE-Leeds activities to date and our experiences, as well as hearing from our Dutch colleagues, their thoughts, reflections and advice. Key words of wisdom were shared. For example starting with small scale changes and creating research ambassadors in the care home to promote collaboration and help embed NICHE-Leeds.

The group visiting Larisa Care Home

The following day we visited two Envida care homes (Larisa and La Valence). We were struck by the space inside the homes, the light and airy interior designs, and the multidisciplinary teams in the homes. Roger Ruijters, a nurse and CEO of Envida care organisation, and founder of the Dutch living lab with Professor Jan Hamers, provided an inspirational blueprint of leadership in action. Twenty years ago, Roger and Jan identified a need for stronger integration between universities and long term care organisations to enhance care through science. Linking these settings through integrated academics in long term care, and an equal and active interdisciplinary partnership is considered key to their success. Roger’s key piece of advice for sustainability was to employ staff with a, “a heart for both science, and for care;  staff need to be able to speak the same language as both care home and university settings, and translate scientific knowledge for care home staff”.

Later we considered one of the methods used in the Dutch living lab for effective audit and feedback, as well as directing future research questions. Dr Irma Everink, and Professor Jos Schols (University of Maastricht) explained the use of LPZ (Landielijke Pravelentiemeting Zorgproblemen). LPZ is an audit tool which measures common care problems in care homes (for example pressure ulcers, falls, continence, nutrition and hydration) and enables benchmarking across care homes: this facilitates consideration of quality improvement within homes. This is international work and we are exploring whether this could be useful for care homes and commissioners in Leeds and to extend the use of this tool in the UK (it is currently being used by care homes in East Midlands with support from University of Nottingham). In the evening our Dutch colleagues organised a “hop and stop” tour: three courses at different restaurants, with a tour guide who shared the history of Maastricht and facts ranging from owl-sized holes in roofs to protect grain (but not mice!) and the origins of the term, “get a round in” and “to your health” (both plague and pub related).

A walking tour of Maastricht

Day 3 we visited Zuyd University of Applied Sciences to hear about the integration of undergraduate degrees into the Living Lab model, where the curriculum focuses on care for older people and stronger links between University and practice. We discussed possibilities of developing similar models in the UK and also exchange visits for students across the living labs. We also saw how new technologies such as 3D printing can help improve life in care homes; for example, by producing bespoke aids to daily life. Technology was a feature of our afternoon visit to Hoogstaete care organisation, hosted by Chief Executive Roel Goffin: GPS tracking devices, virtual exercise classes using avatars, and a robot (Tom) designed to interact with older residents. The combination of Tom’s Scottish accent and existential crisis, “why am I here?” provided some light relief. The end of a full day ended in reflective mode: how to die well in the beautiful and historic Mariaveld hospice and the possibilities of technologically advanced person centred process and hotel services design in the incredible Zuyderland hospital. A reflection by the team was that in all of the care organisations we visited there was a sense of calm and quiet and an environment designed for care and healing.

The group at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences
Meeting Tom, the robot designed to support older people

On Thursday morning we split into groups to discuss international collaborations on projects focusing on i) care home staff and quality of care, and ii) understanding clinical uncertainties in care homes, iii) possibilities for enhancing the educational and student learning associated with NICHE Leeds, and iv) lessons learned from the Dutch living lab experience of implementing evidence into practice; invaluable conversations providing strong foundations for future work.

We are so grateful to our Dutch colleagues for their time and hospitality. The programme facilitated a range of experiences and discussion and the opportunity to learn from their 20 years of experience and insights of the Living Lab model. We ate generous amounts of Rijstevlaai (traditional Dutch rice pudding cake) and also visited Europe’s largest fine art fair. We left feeling inspired, energised and motivated.

Watch this space for more exciting updates as our NICHE-Leeds collaboration, and projects unfold! We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Dutch colleagues and inviting them to visit later in the year. NICHE-Leeds; what an inspiring and exciting venture be to part of!

The team
Dr Reena Devi, email: R.Devi@Leeds.ac.uk Twitter:@_DrReenaDevi

Dr Kirsty Haunch, email: K.Haunch@Leeds.ac.uk twitter: @KirstyJHaunch

Professor Karen Spilsbury, K.Spilsbury@Leeds.ac.uk Twitter: @SpillersK

Professor Carl Thompson, email: C.Thompson@Leeds.ac.uk Twitter: @thompa101

Follow Springfield Healthcare on Twitter: @SpringfieldHea2

Follow Westward Care on Twitter: @WestwardCare

Alison Ellwood Alison.Ellwood@bthft.nhs.uk , Twitter:@ellwood_alison

To see more about NICHE Leeds activity follow us on Twitter @LeedsNiche

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