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How do handovers happen?

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How do handovers happen?

Professor Jill Manthorpe

Many studies have considered handovers between shifts in hospital settings, but handovers have yet to be explored in care homes. 

Professor Jill Manthorpe

Thursday 3rd March 2016

Our new study, recently funded by the Abbeyfield Society, is investigating the content, purpose and effectiveness of handover of information between two different sets of care home staff; one group or individual going off duty – and the other group or individual coming on duty. Our interest in this is not simply academic curiosity – it is based on discussions with health and social care staff about the different practices in their worlds, and discussions with one Community Mental Health Nurse who advises care homes about resident care, in particular residents with dementia. His accounts of the variability of handover (ranging from formal, to ‘car park’ conversations, to none at all) prompted this exploratory study.

Our study will describe and analyse the handover process at change of shift in care homes for older people. We have been funded to answer three main questions –

i.  What are the key elements of a successful handover?

ii. How are changes in individual residents’ needs, wishes and circumstances communicated between shifts?

iii.What are the dynamics between the staff giving and receiving handover?

In order to examine what happens in terms of the handover process between the off-going and oncoming staff team, and what it means to the staff involved, we need to get ‘out there’ and at the right time – whether this is early morning or late at night – in weekdays and weekends. We will directly observe some handovers in care homes and interview the staff involved – both off-going and oncoming staff, and senior managers. We want to observe 15 handovers and to undertake interviews with 30 staff. We are looking for about five care homes of different types. Yes, the views and experiences of residents are important but this is an exploratory study and so we will start with staff and the ‘actual’ handover.

We plan to produce a set of outputs over the life of the study:

  • A scoping review of the literature around handover
  • A report/article based on the initial interviews. This will form part of a publicly available document outlining the options for handover practices
  • Analysis of handovers – an article from the observational data
  • A document (self-audit tool) summarising what care home staff and stakeholders see as important and how care homes may review their own performance in light of this (a document that can be used in skills and organisational development).

Depending on the findings of the study we would like to take further the investigation of handover; we are interested in particular in assisting the sector to co-produce helpful tools, approaches, and learning materials. As noted, this exploratory study is not collecting data from residents and their relatives, or other professionals, and their views too would be valuable sources for thinking about best practices in handover.

Please contact us if you would like to be kept informed of this study or to get involved. Jill Manthorpe, Caroline Norrie, Jo Moriarty and Rekha Elaswarapu, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. Email


Jill is Professor of Social Work at King’s College London, Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit and NIHR Senior Investigator Emeritus.

In 2013 Professor Manthorpe continued a Senior Leadership programme funded by the NIHR with Ashridge Management School. She is involved in advisory work for the Department of Health on several subjects and works closely with several social care employers to link research and practice. In the past year she presented research findings to international conferences in the United States, Malta and South Korea; she also travels widely in the UK to speak with local and regional networks, mainly through Making Research Count. She works on a number of Unit studies that are funded by the Department of Health and also on other studies funded by the NIHR with Unit colleagues and other research teams.

Within King’s College London, Jill supervises post-graduate and doctoral students. Jill is also a Trustee of the Centre for Policy on Ageing and Patron of the Greater London Forum of Older People, and was made Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in March 2015.