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Will the real “Mrs Smith” please stand up: a critical examination of the role of vignettes in integrated service development and delivery

Thomas George (School of Health and Social Care, College of Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Michael Toze (School of Medicine, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Mo Ray (School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Owen Clayton (School of English and Journalism, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 14 August 2020

Issue publication date: 19 July 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

To explore the use of fictitious vignettes representing older people and the extent to which they serve as an effective resource in developing service provision and transforming health and social care.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a critical review of research and academic discourse.

Findings

Fictitious vignettes or case studies of older adults, such as “Mrs Smith”, may be a useful means to promote communication with and between health and social care colleagues about current services and transforming or re-organising service provision. However, we argue that while there may be a role for vignettes, care should be taken in their use. The potential to “homogenise” older people into the “typical” patient personified by Mrs Smith may do very little to challenge age- based stereotypes and assumptions. Moreover, vignettes cannot match the potential value and importance of older men and women directly participating in the evaluation and development of services.

Practical implications

This article argues that changing the way services are organised and delivered must be underpinned by critical reflection of the assumptions which underpin attitudes towards old age, including our tendency to define older people by chronological age and to homogenise “the elderly” into a single group. The value of participatory methods which meaningfully involve older citizens in both evaluating and planning services could contribute significantly to innovation in service development.

Social implications

This paper highlights the critical importance of challenging age-based stereotypes and ageist policy and practice. Recognising old age as being characterised by diversity and difference could challenge the tendency to see old age, especially advanced old age, as an inevitable problem.

Originality/value

This article offers a critical perspective on the use of vignettes.

Keywords

Citation

George, T., Toze, M., Ray, M. and Clayton, O. (2021), "Will the real “Mrs Smith” please stand up: a critical examination of the role of vignettes in integrated service development and delivery", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 254-261. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICA-05-2020-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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