Aim This article explores the involvement of older people in research and inspection, reflecting on the learning from the recent ‘joint review’ of the National Service Framework for Older People in England.
Methodological context Working in 10 different localities, the ‘joint review’ comprised a formal inspection of health and local council services (carried out by the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Audit Commission) and an externally commissioned university-led research project designed to ascertain the views and experiences of older people living in the 10 inspection sites. In total, 1839 older people were interviewed individually and through focus groups and an additional 4200 older people completed questionnaires. A distinctive feature of the research was the inclusion of a team of older researchers who had undertaken training in research methods in later life. Reflections of the older researchers and other members of the research team on undertaking this large-scale user involvement project were ascertained via a day-long seminar which was tape recorded and transcribed.
Learning While many espouse the principle of ‘service user involvement’ in research, there is a need to move beyond the rhetoric of participation and any blanket assumptions about what it means to be an ‘older researcher’, a ‘service user researcher’ or indeed, a ‘professional researcher’. This means ensuring that within any given team (user-controlled or collaborative) there are clear lines of accountability and equal opportunities for individual appraisal, support, and personal or professional development. Such considerations are key to working with ‘older researchers’ and encouraging diversity in the research workforce more generally.