Healthcare support to older residents of care homes: a systematic review of specialist services

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A growing ageing population with complex healthcare needs is a challenge to the organisation of healthcare support for older people residing in care homes. The lack of specialised healthcare support for care home residents has resulted in poorer outcomes, compared with community-dwelling older people. However, little is known about the forms, staff mix, organisation and delivery of such services for residents’ physical healthcare needs. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

This systematic review, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, aimed to provide an overview of the range of healthcare services delivered to care homes and to identify core features of variation in their organisation, activities and responsibilities. The eligibility criteria for studies were services designed to address the physical healthcare needs of older people, permanently residing in care homes, with or without nursing. To search the literature, terms relating to care homes, healthcare and older people, across ten electronic databases were used. The quality of service descriptions was appraised using a rating tool designed for the study. The evidence was synthesised, by means of a narrative summary, according to key areas of variation, into models of healthcare support with examples of their relative effectiveness.

In total, 84 studies, covering 74 interventions, identified a diverse range of specialist healthcare support services, suggesting a wide variety of ways of delivering healthcare support to care homes. These fell within five models: assessment – no consultant; assessment with consultant; assessment/management – no consultant; assessment/management with consultant; and training and support. The predominant model offered a combination of assessment and management. Overall, there was a lack of detail in the data, making judgements of relative effectiveness difficult. Recommendations for future research include the need for clearer descriptions of interventions and particularly of data on resident-level costs and effectiveness, as well as better explanations of how services are implemented (review registration: PROSPERO CRD42017081161).

There is considerable debate about the best means of providing healthcare to older people in care homes. A number of specialist initiatives have developed and this review seeks to bring these together in a comparative approach deriving models of care of value to policy makers and commissioners.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-84
JournalQuality in Ageing and Older Adults
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018