Evidence reviews recommend consistent and structured support for children with neurodisability and their caregivers in care pathways in which professionals recommend a gastrostomy feeding tube. To date, and to our knowledge, no research has shown how these recommendations have been implemented.
The objectives were to describe different exemplar models of psychosocial support and provide an estimate of their resources and costs.
This was a mixed-methods study involving (1) a web-based survey, (2) a qualitative, collective case study of psychosocial support provision in four services and (3) an estimate of costs and preference through a willingness-to-pay study.
Four service configurations in different locations in England and Scotland.
Participants were staff who responded to a survey (n = 67) and interviewees (staff, n = 58; parents/children, n = 29).
Psychosocial support was rarely formalised or documented; it was delivered by different members of the multidisciplinary team, rather than by designated staff, and it was often integrated into appointments dominated by clinical care. Parents expressed different needs for support but reported little opportunity to discuss emotional aspects. Psychologists were not routinely involved and, in general, families were underserved by psychosocial services. Professionals constructed families’ need for psychosocial support in terms of their own roles and the management of risk. Mechanisms for integrating and delivering support were identified, including models of care that linked community and tertiary health services and integrated health and education through pooled budgets. Although generally valued by both staff and parents, peer-to-peer parent support was not consistently offered. Barriers included concerns about confidentiality and appropriately matching parents. Parents participated as members of a feeding committee at one site. Three analytical constructs described the provision of psychosocial support: ‘hidden work’, expressing emotional vulnerability and negotiations around risks and values. The cost-of-support study found that there was a mean of 2.25 appointments (n = 8 parents or carers) over the previous 12 months. The cost of health-care professionals’ time spent on providing psychosocial support ranged from £0.00 to £317.37 per child per year, with an average cost of £76.42, at 2017 prices. In the willingness-to-pay study the median rank of enhanced support, involving the opportunity to see a psychologist and parental peers, was significantly higher than that of usual care (n = 96 respondents, both carers and professionals, who completed rating of the service; p < 0.001).
It proved difficult to disseminate a national survey, which resulted in a small number of returns, and to cost the provision of psychosocial support, which we designated as ‘hidden work’, owing to the lack of recording in clinical systems. Moreover, estimates were based on small numbers.
Parent interviews and the willingness-to-pay study demonstrated a preference for enhanced psychosocial support. The study suggests that there is a need for services to formally assess families’ needs for psychosocial support to ensure that provision is planned, costed and made explicit in care pathways. Personalised interventions may assist with the targeting of resources and ensuring that there is an appropriate balance in focus on both clinical care and psychosocial support needs in relation to and following treatment.
More work is needed to develop tools to assess families’ needs for psychosocial support and the effectiveness of training packages to strengthen team competency in providing support.
This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research programme and will be published in full in Health Services and Delivery Research; Vol. 8, No. 38. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.