Research priorities for the therapy professions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland: a comparison of findings from a Delphi consultation.

Published on Jun 1, 2014in Journal of allied health
Hugh McKenna37
Estimated H-index: 37
Suzanne McDonough38
Estimated H-index: 38
(RMIT: RMIT University)
+ 5 AuthorsOrla Duffy2
Estimated H-index: 2
(RMIT: RMIT University)
BACKGROUND: Allied health professions constitute a large and growing proportion of the healthcare workforce. As a collective they are involved in complex care interventions often within multidisciplinary teams and increasingly in community settings. Even though reliable information is lacking, some professions do appear to have developed an active research culture, whereas others are more limited in terms of research. PURPOSE: This paper reports on the comparative findings of two Delphi studies, one in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland, undertaken between 2008 and 2011. The aim of both studies was to identify research priorities for six of the therapy professions. METHOD: A classic Delphi approach was used involving expert panels from the therapy disciplines, service users, and key stakeholders. Results: Both studies provided rich sources of data. Areas of commonality included the evaluation of practice generally and specific interventions common to each of the professions. More effective service management and health promotion research were also identified as important in both countries. CONCLUSIONS: As the global number of allied health professionals increases, along with the need for them to support their practice with sound evidence, the findings from this paper have international implications. J Allied Health 2014; 43(2):98-109.ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL (AHP) is a generic term used to refer to a diverse group of healthcare workers, distinct from medicine and nursing, whose titles, roles, and requisites vary between counties.1 Furthermore, evidence has suggested that their role, capacity and capabilities are relatively under-researched.2 This has led to calls for their greater visibility and engagement in research.3,4Nationally and internationally, there have been recommendations calling for the establishment of research priorities for AHPs.5,6 In response, a number of studies and projects have explored the priorities for research and development within specific specialist AHP groups, for example, physiotherapists,7 occupational therapists,8-12 dieticians,13,14 and podiatrists.15 However, little attention has been paid to identifying priorities within Ireland or to compare research priorities for AHPs across different countries and healthcare systems. The aim of this paper is to report on a large three-staged Delphi study that identified the research priorities of AHPs within the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI).BackgroundThe structure, organisation and provision of healthcare are different between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI). Nonetheless, an increasing number of cross-border and cross governmental arrangements has resulted in closer collaboration in a growing range of activities and services. On both sides of the land border, there are thriving communities of therapy professions that generally mirror each other in terms of professional roles and functions. However, there are professional and role differences within and between some of the AHPs that took part in these two studies, particularly in regard to service delivery arrangements in different parts of the island. These differences influence the role of the therapist and the settings within which AHP services are delivered.In NI, the therapy professions surveyed in this study included podiatry, dietetics, occupational therapy, orthoptics, physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy. They constitute a significant and growing proportion of the United Kingdom (UK) healthcare workforce. They have an important role in the planning, organisation and delivery of health care across most of the healthcare sectors. This includes the acute services and primary health and social care, where they also contribute to assisting individuals with long-term conditions to maximise their potential and independence. In response to this, the requirement for a research culture and its growth and development across the professions has been recognised by the Higher Education Funding Council. …
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