Objective: A key challenge in delivering pragmatic trials of complex interventions is effective implementation within the study period and beyond. We describe a trial of an intervention to improve quality of life in mild dementia (Journeying through Dementia), describe some of the challenges raised in terms of implementation, and illustrate the methods used to ensure effective implementation.
Method: The intervention was delivered by staff within local services and supervised by more experienced clinicians within those services in order to test the intervention in real-world settings and establish the potential for future embedding into practice. Researchers delivered training sessions for all facilitators and supervisors, met at regular intervals with intervention supervisors, and provided feedback on summaries of intervention sessions created by facilitators. We conducted a thematic analysis of the content of meetings and written correspondence between the researchers and intervention supervisors regarding implementation issues.
Results: Key themes relating to difficulties with implementation were: staff absences and staff leaving posts; participant lack of engagement with intervention; difficulties with delivery of supervision; difficult group dynamics; lack of time to deliver the intervention; and lack of adherence to the intervention and its ethos.
Conclusion: We provide guidance for researchers involved in the trialing of other complex interventions in how these challenges might be overcome. These include: recruiting additional staff to deliver the intervention; having clear protocols in place for managing staff absences; using supervision to problem solve participant attendance at intervention sessions and difficult group dynamics; monitoring staff engagement in supervision and addressing problems with engagement with staff and managers when this occurs; giving staff ring-fenced time to deliver the intervention and engage in supervision; and regular monitoring and feedback in relation to the content of the intervention to ensure that it is consistent with ethos and content of the intervention manual.
Keywords: complex intervention; dementia; implementation; pragmatic trial.
© 2021 The Authors. Brain and Behavior published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.