Abstract

Haighton C, Moffatt S, Howel D, Steer M, Becker F, Bryant A, et al. Randomised controlled trial with economic and process evaluations of domiciliary welfare rights advice for socioeconomically disadvantaged older people recruited via primary health care (the Do-Well study). Public Health Res 2019;7(3)

 

Background

Welfare rights advice services are effective at maximising previously unclaimed welfare benefits, but their impact on health has not been evaluated.

Objective

To establish the acceptability, cost-effectiveness and effect on health of a domiciliary welfare rights advice service targeting older people, compared with usual practice.

Design

A pragmatic, individually randomised, parallel-group, single-blinded, wait-list controlled trial, with economic and process evaluations. Data were collected by interview at baseline and 24 months, and by self-completion questionnaire at 12 months. Qualitative interviews were undertaken with purposive samples of 50 trial participants and 17 professionals to explore the intervention’s acceptability and its perceived impacts.

Setting

Participants’ homes in North East England, UK.

Participants

A total of 755 volunteers aged =?60 years, living in their own homes, fluent in English and not terminally ill, recruited from the registers of 17 general practices with an Index of Multiple Deprivation within the most deprived two-fifths of the distribution for England, and with no previous access to welfare rights advice services.

Interventions

Welfare rights advice, comprising face-to-face consultations, active assistance with benefit claims and follow-up as required until no longer needed, delivered in participants’ own homes by a qualified welfare rights advisor. Control group participants received usual care until the 24-month follow-up, after which they received the intervention.

Main outcome measures

The primary outcome was health-related quality of life (HRQoL), assessed using the CASP-19 (Control, Autonomy, Self-realisation and Pleasure) score. The secondary outcomes included general health status, health behaviours, independence and hours per week of care, mortality and changes in financial status.

Results

A total of 755 out of 3912 (19%) general practice patients agreed to participate and were randomised (intervention, n?=?381; control, n?=?374). In the intervention group, 335 participants (88%) received the intervention. A total of 605 (80%) participants completed the 12-month follow-up and 562 (75%) completed the 24-month follow-up. Only 84 (22%) intervention group participants were awarded additional benefits. There was no significant difference in CASP-19 score between the intervention and control groups at 24 months [adjusted mean difference 0.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) –0.8 to 1.5], but a significant increase in hours of home care per week in the intervention group (adjusted difference 26.3 hours/week, 95% CI 0.8 to 56.1 hours/week). Exploratory analyses found a weak positive correlation between CASP-19 score and the amount of time since receipt of the benefit (0.39, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.58). The qualitative data suggest that the intervention was acceptable and that receipt of additional benefits was perceived by participants and professionals as having had a positive impact on health and quality of life. The mean cost was £44 per participant, the incremental mean health gain was 0.009 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) (95% CI –0.038 to 0.055 QALYs) and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was £1914 per QALY gained.

Conclusions

The trial did not provide sufficient evidence to support domiciliary welfare rights advice as a means of promoting health among older people, but it yielded qualitative findings that suggest important impacts on HRQoL. The intervention needs to be better targeted to those most likely to benefit.

Future work

Further follow-up of the trial could identify whether or not outcomes diverge among intervention and control groups over time. Research is needed to better understand how to target welfare rights advice to those most in need.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN37380518.

Funding

This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research programme and will be published in full in Public Health Research; Vol. 7, No. 3. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information. The authors also received a grant of £28,000 from the North East Strategic Health Authority in 2012 to cover the costs of intervention delivery and training as well as other non-research costs of the study.