Contemporary health policy is shifting towards remotely delivered care. A growing need to provide effective and accessible services, with maximal population reach has stimulated demand for flexible and efficient service models. The implementation of evidence-based practice has been slow, leaving many services ill equipped to respond to requests for non-face-to-face delivery. To address this translation gap, and provide empirically derived evidence to support large-scale practice change, our study aimed to explore practitioners’ perspectives of the factors that enhance the delivery of a NICE-recommended psychological intervention, i.e. guided self-help by telephone (GSH-T), in routine care. We used the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to analyse our data, identify essential behaviour change processes and encourage the successful implementation of remote working in clinical practice.
Thirty-four psychological wellbeing practitioners (PWPs) from the UK NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services were interviewed. Data were first analysed inductively, with codes cross-matched deductively to the TDF.
Analysis identified barriers to the delivery, engagement and implementation of GSH-T, within eight domains from the TDF: (i) Deficits in practitioner knowledge, (ii) Sub-optimal practitioner telephone skills, (iii) Practitioners’ lack of beliefs in telephone capabilities and self-confidence, (iv) Practitioners’ negative beliefs about consequences, (v) Negative emotions, (vi) Professional role expectations (vii) Negative social influences, and (viii) Challenges in the environmental context and resources. A degree of interdependence was observed between the TDF domains, such that improvements in one domain were often reported to confer secondary advantages in another.
Multiple TDF domains emerge as relevant to improve delivery of GSH-T; and these domains are theoretically and practically interlinked. A multicomponent approach is recommended to facilitate the shift from in-person to telephone-based service delivery models, and prompt behaviour change at practitioner, patient and service levels. At a minimum, the development of practitioners’ telephone skills, an increase in clients’ awareness of telephone-based treatment, dilution of negative preconceptions about telephone treatment, and robust service level guidance and standards for implementation are required. This is the first study that provides clear direction on how to improve telephone delivery and optimise implementation, aligning with current mental health policy and service improvement.