Amidst global population aging, the demand for residential long-term care is increasing. In the United Kingdom, an estimated 430,000 older adults reside in care homes. Homes hold a wealth of information about each resident; however, this is often collected without a systematic approach, and shielded by commercial sensitivity and mistrust in data sharing. An efficient means for secondary research is to repurpose data collected from previous research undertaken in the homes.

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) collect detailed information about every care home and resident taking part. Rigorous ethical standards and anonymised processes in RCTs instil trust in the data.  While individual trials offer valuable insights, centralising and pooling this data could provide a cost-effective avenue to generate new understanding of the care home sector.

A newly published article in the International Journal of Population Data Science introduces the Virtual International Care Homes Trials Archive (VICHTA).  This initiative collates anonymised individual participant data from multiple RCTs conducted within older adult care home settings. Any RCT completed since 2010 and with at least 100 participants can be included, and as the archive focuses on setting, rather than clinical condition or intervention, it sheds light on the multifaceted nature of the aging population within these facilities. It currently holds data from six RCTs, encompassing 5,674 residents across 308 care homes, collected between 2011 and 2019. This rich dataset covers a diverse array of demographics, clinical characteristics and outcome measures of residents, as well as care processes and environmental factors.

Data access to VICHTA follows a managed-access model, with original trialists forming a Steering Committee to oversee the approval process. Researchers can submit proposals, through Virtual Trials Archives. Once granted access, all analysis are performed via their online data platform.

There are plans to expand and incorporate additional trials in the future, increasing its diversity and ability to address a wider range of research questions. As the archive grows and more trials contribute to this collective knowledge, potential uses of the data include tracking long-term care trends, identifying resident subgroups, understanding care home markets, and developing methodological research on outcome measures.

The study’s lead author, Lisa Irvine, commented “in VICHTA we’ve adopted methods tried and tested in medical areas, as seen in the ongoing success of Virtual Trials Archives. Here, we focus on the care home research environment where RCT data is abundant, but underused.  The success of VICHTA hinges on researchers being aware of it and actively accessing it, so please get in touch regarding your potential projects”.


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Lisa Irvine, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care, School of Health and Social Work, University of Hertfordshire

Irvine, L., Burton, J. K., Ali, M., Booth, J., Desborough, J., Logan, P., Moniz-Cook, E., Surr, C., Wright, D. and Goodman, C. (2023) “Data Resource Profile: the Virtual International Care Homes Trials Archive (VICHTA)”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 8(6). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v8i6.2161.