heath h. & phair l. (2009) Shifting the focus: outcomes of care for older people. International Journal of Older People Nursing4, 142–153
Internationally there is commitment to work towards eradicating the abuse of older people and to develop services that promote their equality, dignity and human rights. The emphasis on service users is gradually increasing and, along with this, the focus within health and social care policy, service provision and professional practice is shifting. In UK health and social care policy the emphasis on service structure and provision is being replaced by a focus on outcomes for service users, including outcomes which patients themselves evaluate. The focus of UK Adult Protection services is also shifting from intervention to prevention through developing greater understanding of the factors which contribute to abuse, changing attitudes towards entrenched poor care, identifying preventative services and safeguarding vulnerable adults. Nursing literature is also beginning to acknowledge the evolution of an outcomes focus. This paper discusses the shifting emphasis in UK health and social care in the safeguarding of vulnerable people and in nursing practice. It offers an overview of literature on outcomes. The paper then describes a research study which sought to identify outcomes of care for older people living in UK care homes. The outcomes framework developed through the research is offered, along with a discussion of the advantages of an outcome-focused approach to care and some of the remaining challenges. A case example is offered to illustrate an outcomes-focused approach. Finally, the paper draws conclusions on how shifting the focus of care delivery from traditional problem-orientated approaches and ritualized practice towards the outcomes of care that individual older people choose and evaluate for themselves offers potential towards eradicating abuse and neglect in formal care settings.