3.6 Qualitative data: Interviews

The interviews originally commenced as an exercise to inform the researcher of the existing systems in relation to a wider, departmental service improvement programme. As part of the researcher’s substantive work, the engagement with staff across the LAHCS had been identified as an appropriate means of understanding and addressing the operational challenges and difficulties faced. However, following the initial analysis of the data gathered for the service improvement work, it became apparent that themes were emerging from the LAHCS data that required a more in-depth, specific analysis. The process described in the following section represents the analytical work carried out in relation to these emerging themes. In particular, many comments were made in relation to LAHCS losing focus and becoming so overwhelmed with service requests that it was failing to meet its founding principles and was no longer fulfilling operational commitments. Consequently, the interviews were used in relation to answering the following research questions: (i) what is the approach taken to enablement in LA; (ii) to what extent are the enablement services offsetting and preventing increase service demands, and (iii) what are the factors that are impacting (positively and negatively) on LA’s ability to deliver enablement services.

Although full explanations of the researcher’s activity had been detailed through a series of team meetings, no formal ethical approval was sought at this stage as the work carried out was an internal operational issue. As part of a service improvement programme, the researcher conducted a number of interviews with key personnel in LAHCS between January and February 2013. To ensure a broad understanding of the functioning within the service, and to ensure variability in sampling, the interviews were conducted with all the first-line managers in the service. Each participant was required to describe their experiences from commencement of their employment through to the present day thus considering all aspects of the service’s history and current operational practices. Prior to interviews taking place, all participants were advised of the nature of the work and informed that all comments raised would remain anonymous and would not be attributable to any individual. It was explained that notes taken throughout the interview would be organised in such a way that would allow a thematic analysis to be conducted. The emerging themes would then form the basis of a report for senior management on the findings. Further, it was advised that the information gathered would only be used for the stated purposes and retained by the researcher for a limited period thereafter being disposed of securely. Nine interviews were conducted each lasting for approximately 1 hour. The interviews were loosely structured (Gomm, et al 2000) around: (i) a historical perspective on how the LAHCS came into existence; (ii) the challenges that the service is faced with, and; (iii) to establish what the current operational issues were. The researcher adopted an informal approach to the interviews, thereby allowing latitude to follow-up unpredicted but interesting lines of enquiry. Field notes were taken in relation to responses given by the participants and summaries were then written up. From the summaries, the data gathered was transferred to a spreadsheet specifically designed for this purpose. The preliminary findings were discussed with senior management and a request was made to develop the analysis further and to incorporate the work into this research project. An application was made to the local authority’s Learning and Development Section requesting approval and approval was granted in April 2013 on the proviso that a summary of the findings were made available to senior management. Ethics approval was also granted by Edinburgh University following submission of this dissertation proposal with the caveat that retrospective permission be sought from the original participants to use the data collected to fulfil commitments to this research project. Therefore, each LAHCS participant was presented with an information sheet (Appendix 2) detailing the purpose of the research project along with a consent form that included a formal confidentiality agreement to preserve anonymity. Participants (and senior management) were advised that they would have access to the final report.

A phased approach [a stepped approach to managing, analysing and interpreting data in an iterative process] (Gaskell and Bauer, 2000) was used in the analysis of the qualitative data. First, time was taken to read all the interview summaries to become immersed in the data gathered. Preliminary findings emerged from this analysis, which formed the themes that allowed a further breakdown of data to conduct a more in-depth analysis. To simplify and categorise the data, a simple matrix was created using database management systems that produced a framework with interviewees on the x axis and the emergent themes along the y axis. From the summaries the researcher then colour coded words/comments that correlated with the emergent themes and placed them into the matrix. As this data was categorised, new themes began to emerge and a second iteration of the matrix evolved. A similar colour coding exercise took place that allowed the researcher to establish core themes. This process assisted the dependability of the analysis of the data set from which key findings emerged from the research project.

By adopting a case study approach a holistic analysis of the subject of enquiry has been possible bringing together data on demographics and service use with insights from first line managers. In so doing, the research has identified a number of key findings which focuses on the impact of the ageing population on the operational demands of LAHCS.