Benefit or burden: introducing paraprofessional support staff to health visiting teams: the case of 'Starting Well'

Mackenzie, M. (2006) Benefit or burden: introducing paraprofessional support staff to health visiting teams: the case of 'Starting Well'. Health and Social Care in the Community, 14(6), pp. 523-531. (doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2006.00640.x)

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With increased public-sector funding to expand and improve frontline services, pre-existing skill shortages within key professional workforces have become more acute. One response to this has been to encourage the development of skill-mix approaches which allow tasks previously undertaken by professional staff groupings to be assumed by new paraprofessional employees. Within the UK National Health Service, one group of professionals who are being challenged to change their way of working in this way are health visitors. Starting Well, one of Scotland's four health demonstration projects, which was established in 2000 to bring about a step-change in child health within deprived communities in Glasgow, operated as a pilot for such a skill-mix model of health visiting. The project was evaluated using a multimethod approach that encompassed the study of both processes and outcomes. The present paper reports on a process evaluation of the project's implementation that addressed the rationale underlying the development of Starting Well's skill-mix approach and the challenges which this model faced in practice. The perceptions of both managerial staff ( n = 18) and those working in practice ( n = 33) were gathered using semistructured interviews which sought to elicit and test Starting Well's theory of change in relation to the use of paraprofessional staff. Two sets of interviews were conducted with each group of staff between 2001 and 2003. Two main types of challenge were identified: deploying potentially vulnerable members of staff; and co-management of paraprofessionals by the health service and a voluntary-sector organisation. A potential challenge identified from the literature, i.e. that of implementing a new role within an existing team, proved to be less problematic within Starting Well. These issues are discussed in relation to current policy and practice debates

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mackenzie, Professor Mhairi
Authors: Mackenzie, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Health and Social Care in the Community
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1365-2524
Published Online:24 August 2006

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