Implementation of a self-management support approach (WISE) across a health system. A process evaluation of what did and didn’t work at which point in the system

A. Kennedy, A. Rogers, Carolyn Chew-Graham, Thomas Blakeman, R. Bowen, C. Gardner, V. Lee, R. Morris, J. Protheroe

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Background: Implementation of long-term condition management interventions rests on the notion of whole systems re-design, where incorporating wider elements of health care systems are integral to embedding effective and integrated solutions. However, most self-management support (SMS) evaluations still focus on particular elements or outcomes of a sub-system. A randomised controlled trial of a SMS intervention (WISE—Whole System Informing Self-management Engagement) implemented in primary care showed no effect on patient-level outcomes. This paper reports on a parallel process evaluation to ascertain influences affecting WISE implementation at patient, clinical and organisational levels. Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) provided a sensitising background and analytical framework. Methods: A multi-method approach using surveys and interviews with organisational stakeholders, practice staff and trial participants about impact of training and use of tools developed for WISE. Analysis was sensitised by NPT (coherence, cognitive participation, collective action and reflective monitoring). The aim was to identify what worked and what did not work for who and in what context. Results: Interviews with organisation stakeholders emphasised top-down initiation of WISE by managers who supported innovation in self-management. Staff from 31 practices indicated engagement with training but patchy adoption of WISE tools; SMS was neither prioritised by practices nor fitted with a biomedically focussed ethos, so little effort was invested in WISE techniques. Interviews with 24 patients indicated no awareness of any changes following the training of practice staff; furthermore, they did not view primary care as an appropriate place for SMS. Conclusion: The results contribute to understanding why SMS is not routinely adopted and implemented in primary care. WISE was not embedded because of the perceived lack of relevance and fit to the ethos and existing work. Enacting SMS within primary care practice was not viewed as a legitimate activity or a professional priority. There was failure to, in principle, engage with and identify patients’ support needs. Policy presumptions concerning SMS appear to be misplaced. Implementation of SMS within the health service does not currently account for patient circumstances. Primary care priorities and support for SMS could be enhanced if they link to patients’ broader systems of implementation networks and resources.
Original languageEnglish
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number129
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Process evaluation
  • Normalisation Process Theory
  • Self-management support
  • Long-term conditions


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