Why is being aware of research evidence about day centres important?

Commissioning/funding decision-makers

People involved in decisions about commissioning or funding services (in both health and social care) are expected to make evidence-based decisions to ensure that public resources are being used as effectively as possible. Commissioning is the process by which health and care services are planned, purchased and monitored. It involves assessing local needs, planning services, procuring services and monitoring quality. People involved in commissioning and funding decisions include local policymakers, commissioners, members of committees such as Health and Wellbeing Boards or Integrated Care Systems (ICS), people on funding panels, local councillors, or local grant-giving bodies that may be charitable. Service user expertise should, but does not always, play a significant role in the decision-making process. 

People working directly with older people and carers

Being aware of day centre research may help professionals working in health or social care and others who have direct contact with older people and carers. It may help them to feel more confident about suggesting day centre attendance. 


Download a two-page information sheet on research about day centres for professionals to give to older people and carers: Day centres for older people: what do older people say about them? 

This leaflet summarises some of the main messages coming from six recent UK research studies and illustrates these with quotes from some of the older people and family carers interviewed for these studies. 

Day centre providers

Knowledge of the evidence about day centres may strengthen day centre providers’ messaging (i.e. how they present the service) about what their services offer.  They can be clearer about how their service benefits potential service users, their carers or volunteers as well as staff and others they work with, including social care and the NHS. 

Relevance to local/national policy or strategies

Important insights into day centres for older people, ‘interventions’ that take place at them (e.g. exercise classes) and their relevance to policy or strategies can be gained by reading relevant research. Research articles summarise the background to the particular research study being presented. For example, prevention and encouraging people to be more proactive about their health and wellbeing are central to the vision of the NHS Long Term Plan  and in social care. People involved in local strategies to tackle loneliness may be interested in knowing the research about how day centre attendance impacts on loneliness (in individuals and what this means for the NHS, for example).  

Locating academic research evidence can be tricky but it is worth finding

There are different types of evidence used in commissioning decisions. Academic research evidence might be formal research or performance data (e.g. about what works), the lived experience of people using services and their families, or the experience of front-line staff. Barriers in accessing academic research means that relevant research articles may not be consulted. 

Research with local authorities and NHS commissioners found that they tend to use easily accessible and trusted publications from a variety of sources. These include: national policy guidance, reports of government-funded pilots, quangos, industry advice, voluntary sector best practice reports, professional or sector publications, experiences of people using services (‘case studies’ or ‘stories’) local knowledge or local service evaluations. They may also undertake pilots to create evidence. 

Academic research evidence is an overlooked yet important source of evidence. 

Commissioners working in the NHS have said that it is difficult for them to find, review, interpret and make useful conclusions from relevant academic research because they lack the time and skills to do so, and also because articles are often not accessible to them. 

How to find academic research

Carrying out a search on Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com) is a good way to start looking for research articles about day centres because it saves looking at the contents pages of multiple journals. 

Findings of research studies are often published in ‘peer reviewed journals’ which means that other experts working in similar fields in the academic world (universities) have thoroughly checked them before they are published. Articles in these journals report and interpret findings of different types of research study. 

Articles covering ‘primary research’ - which involves gathering data that has not been collected before – involves reporting themes and data collected that illustrate these (e.g. statistics or representative quotations from people who were interviewed), so that readers know the findings are genuine. They also provide contextual information to help readers understand the findings better (for example an overview of reasons why the research was undertaken, other relevant research, policy, theories). 

Articles may also report ‘secondary research’ which uses already existing data. One form of secondary research is the ‘literature review’. A literature review aims to answer a specific question, and involves subject specialists searching for, evaluating and examining published research (UK and international) and explaining how the body of literature found addresses the question. 

Research published in journals usually includes a short summary at the start. This is called the ‘abstract’. The abstract is always available to read free of charge. Many journals charge to read research articles in full. However, some articles in these journals are openly accessible which means that readers don’t need to pay a fee to access them. These ‘open access’ articles are usually flagged with an open padlock . Some journals never charge fees to read published articles (e.g. BMC Geriatrics, Health and Social Care in the Community, Journal of Long-Term Care).  

Overviews of research findings are sometimes also published in professional/sector press (e.g. Community Care, Health Service Journal)

People unfamiliar with day centres may wish to read a report that gives in-depth details of four day centres, What happens in English generalist day centres for older people? Findings from case study research, published by King’s College London. It aims to further the understanding of these diverse services. 

Download the two-page information sheet: Day Centres for older people: what do people say about them?

Day centres for older people: what do people say about them?

Download this two-page information sheet on research about day centres for professionals to give to older people and carers
Download this information sheet: Day centres for older people
Download Leaflet-Info%20on%20research%20about%20DCs%20%28for%20professionals%20to%20use%20with%20clients%29May%202024_0.pdf

Download a PDF of this section with further information on why research evidence matters

Why research evidence matters

This document explains why becoming aware of the research evidence should be of interest to day centre providers and their external stakeholders, the value of academic research and how to find it.
Download Why research matters
Download 2-Why%20research%20matters%20May%202024.pdf