Our earlier blog described how you can identify the information needs of decision-makers and practitioners in your organisation, but, once these are established, how do you go about fulfilling them using ASCS and PSS SACE data?

There are a number of strategies that you can use to ensure the data you collect from the surveys can fulfil local information needs (e.g. making local modifications to the surveys, conducting focused analysis, and/or drawing on supplementary sources of data) and these are summarised in the MAX PLANNING GUIDE . The questions and accompanying examples of existing LA practice posed in the current blog will help you to select the most appropriate approach or approaches.

The ASCS & PSS SACE provide quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (textual) data, so a useful starting point is to consider whether more in-depth statistical or thematic analysis – or a combination of both – would be helpful.

A mixed-methods approach was favoured by many of the LA decision-makers involved in our earlier work, so you may want to consider this option. Suggestions on how you can do this are provided in the further analysis guides, both of which can be downloaded here.

Example of LA practice
The carers team in one LA wanted to assess the extent to which carers found it easy to arrange services and support, felt they had enough choice and where (if anywhere) improvements could be made. In order to collect the detailed data needed to inform action – in other words, contextual information as well as numerical data – the team agreed that a mixed methods approach would be the most appropriate approach.

The demographic questions and open-ended comments boxes included in both surveys produce data that can be used to explore a wide range of research questions. If, however, these are insufficient to fulfil your local information needs, further questions can be added (subject to NHS Digital approval).

NHS Digital provide guidelines on the types of additions that are acceptable and host a bank of local questions previously added by LAs. You may therefore want to consult this first before developing your own question(s).

Example of LA practice (continued)
While the carers team planned to analyse the data from a range of existing questions in the PSS SACE, they added three further questions to collect specific information about the ease of arranging services and perceived choice.  They also added a comments box to enable respondents to provide further information about their experiences and where they felt improvements could be made.

Statistical and thematic analysis found that carers of younger service-users (under 65 years) and seeking respite breaks of more than 24 hours reported difficulties in finding and arranging the right kind of care, and felt they had limited choice.

Another important consideration is whether the standard sample sizes will yield the number of cases required to conduct your planned analysis. Insufficient samples were cited as a barrier to analysis by several of the LA staff we spoke to but can be overcome by modifying the sample frame.

NHS Digital provide guidance, along with sample size calculations, and need to approve your requested changes.

Example of LA practice
Regional | District leads and commissioners in one large LA wanted to learn more about local variations in practice and reported outcomes. As samples of specific service user groups in some regions were usually small, they decided to modify the ASCS sample frame (with permission from NHS Digital) to ensure that the larger samples sizes needed to support planned analysis were collected. The findings from further analysis confirmed district-level variations and issues (e.g. in unmet needs, quality of life) and were used as a springboard for discussions at regional meetings. Examples of local practice were also shared where relevant.

A wide range of existing data sources and tools can be used to supplement the findings from your ASCS and PSS SACE analysis (e.g. LA records, local and national research, and population segmentation tools) so you may want to explore whether additional information may be useful.

Example of LA practice
Initial analysis conducted in one LA showed that some service users were reporting that the services they were receiving were not helping to make them feel safe.  Managers referred back to practice files and audit data, and found evidence to suggest that service users may not have been aware that safeguarding processes were put in place. These findings were used to inform changes to existing practice; in particular, for practitioners to ensure that service users were told that they had undergone or were undergoing a safeguarding review.

Need further guidance or some inspiration? We have developed a short guide to help you to establish the most appropriate strategies for fulfilling your local information needs. This can be accessed via the MAX PLANNING GUIDE. Examples of how LA analysts have previously fulfilled local information needs using survey data are briefly summarised here.

The next blog in the series introduces the analysis element of the MAX toolkit and can be accessed here.
This blog is based on independent research commissioned and funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme (Maximising the value of survey data in adult social care (MAX) project and MAX toolkit implementation and impact study). The views expressed in the publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or its arm’s length bodies or other government departments.