Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Health and Social Care as a ‘wicked problem’


The UK is experiencing an ageing demographic, ResPublica estimate that by 2035 there will be 3.5 million people aged over 85 (2015) and the Medical Research Council suggest by 2051 a quarter of the population will be older than 65 (MRC 2016). The changing demographic has led to an increasing interest in gerontology and a continued growth in the care sector. An increasing number of elderly people are also living with long term medical conditions such as dementia, and chronic illness such as diabetes resulting in the need for specialised care. An ageing society along with diminishing financial resources has resulted in a changing and challenging landscape for the delivery of social care.

The concept of Long Term Care presents both a current and future social concern with all the characteristics of a wicked problem, e.g. collaboration between multiple actors with multiple perspectives. It is a fundamental requirement that those who experience the wicked problem are those that work towards a solution; however, the first stage is that the problem is recognised. Therefore we propose an interactive workshop with up to 20 stakeholders involved; these would represent both in-house (e.g. care managers) and external (e.g. GPs, dieticians, physiotherapists) professions. The purpose of this interactive workshop is to give the relevant stakeholders an opportunity to identify what they deem to be the wicked problems. We then propose to give the participants some conceptual tools to allow them to start thinking about how the wicked problem could be engaged with. The data from this research will inform a larger project – we recognise wicked problems need innovative and safe environments to allow them to be acknowledged and invoke change. We propose trialling different ways of supporting stakeholders to implement change and aim for a brighter future.

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