Manchester experts lead new project to develop training for COVID-19 contact tracers

Experts from The University of Manchester are to lead a new project to develop motivational interviewing training for COVID-19 contact tracers, building on knowledge, expertise and best practice from the contact tracers themselves.

Motivational interviewing is a conversation style with a strong evidence base for supporting behavioural change in fields as diverse as health, social care, education and criminal justice. It is effective for working with clients who feel ambivalent about change, making it potentially ideal as a way of talking to individuals testing positive with the COVID-19 virus, who may have conflicting feelings about self-isolation.

This innovative project is the first in the world to look at how motivational interviewing can support the work of contact tracers in their interactions with members of the public and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

Over the next three months, the project will be led by the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester, in partnership with Wigan Council’s Test, Track and Trace Cell. The council has motivational interviewing at the heart of its service delivery model, with a strong focus on partnership, caring communities and happy, healthy people.

The first phase will see academics work with contact tracing teams in Wigan to understand the challenges and pressures of the role, to find out what is supportive and helpful with their conversations with members of the public. This will lead to the production of bespoke interview training, specifically tailored to the needs of contact tracers, drawing on the experiences of people familiar with the role.

Once the training has been developed, it will be made available to contact tracers across the UK, ultimately helping to improve rates of self-isolation and contact tracing amongst the public. 

Dr Cathy Atkinson
We know that while contact tracing is a national priority, it does not always have the best outcomes in terms of leading to members of the public following guidance and therefore infection control. Motivational interviewing may be key to improving contact tracing practice, allowing contact tracers to develop their interpersonal skills, and feel more confident, comfortable and ultimately effective in their role.
Dr Cathy Atkinson

“This an exciting opportunity to build on the skills and knowledge of both Public Health practitioners and motivational interviewing researchers and trainers. Developing good practice in contact tracing can help in building motivation to participate in well-funded isolation support and control this virus,” said Paul Earnshaw, Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, training lead on the project

Professor Kate Ardern, Director of Public Health, Wigan Council said, “It's great to be partnering The University of Manchester in this important research as we believe this training will have a really positive impact on the effectiveness of contact tracing.”

Free virtual training events for contact tracers will take place on April 15, 22 & 29 - people can sign up to these via the Eventbrite links below, which will also be promoted on the project Twitter feed @TracingMi.

15 April: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/developing-motivational-interviewing-skills-for-contact-tracing-tickets-147590588423
22 April: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/developing-motivational-interviewing-skills-for-contact-tracing-tickets-147623918113
29 April: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/developing-motivational-interviewing-skills-for-contact-tracing-tickets-147590588423

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