A rapid review of the grey literature in order to document existing models of provision of the Meals on Wheels (MoWs) service in England


BNSSG ICB Research Capability Funding.

What is the problem?

Meals on Wheels (MoWs) provide daily meals and social contact to adults who need support to live in the community. Many adults in England need help with shopping for food and preparing meals. MoWs could be essential for these individuals. In addition, MoWs could potentially lead to considerable savings for adult social care services and the NHS. However, many councils in England have stopped providing MoWs because of cuts in social care budgets. This leaves many individuals unable to access this essential service.

What is the aim of the research?

The aim of the proposed RCF project is to conduct a rapid review of the grey literature, in order to document existing models of provision of the Meals on Wheels (MoWs) service in England. The findings of this review will directly inform an NIHR Research for Social Care (RfSC) grant application, whose research question is to understand ‘the role MoWs services have in improving social care outcomes for adults with care and support needs in England’. More specifically, the identification of different models of provision of MoWs will help inform the selection of case studies of MoWs sites, which will be explored in depth in the second phase of the NIHR RfSC grant.

Seven people with lived experiences of MoWs (PPI) helped us develop this research. They told us that we need to understand what role MoWs have in social care in England. So we will find out how MoWs have been provided by councils over time. We will also find out who uses MoWs and what benefits service users, and their carers, have from using MoWs. Advised by our PPI group, we also aim to understand how decisions about running MoWs are made, and how much MoWs cost councils. We will do this to help make better decisions about the future of MoWs in England. We also want to suggest how MoWs should ideally run so that they are good value for money for service providers. This could help a large number of individuals who need care to benefit from MoWs.

How will this be achieved?

We will use information from councils and studies in England that is freely available to analyse. This will establish patterns in provision of MoWs, the characteristics of people who use MoWs and the relationship between MoWs use and quality of life of service users and carers. These findings, alongside the MoWs provision models that will be identified from the proposed RCF project, and advice from our PPI group, will help select 6-8 sites of diverse MoWs providers across England, which will be explored in the NIHR Research for Social Care grant.

Each MoWs manager will help us recruit 20 people to interview at each site (managers, delivery drivers, service users and their carers, commissioners). Interviews will help us understand different ways of providing MoWs and what MoWs models work best, for whom, and under which circumstances. We will also collect information on resources required to run MoWs and the costs to service users. We will then estimate the costs of introducing an ‘optimised’ MoWs service. Our PPI group will also advise us on what questions to ask in the interviews and how to share findings with people who make decisions on MoWs.

Who is leading the research?

Dr Angeliki Papadaki, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition,  University of Bristol.

Further information:

For more information or to get involved with this project, please contact bnssg.research@nhs.net