Accessing Meals on Wheels: a qualitative study exploring the experiences of service users and people who refer them to the service

Angeliki Papadaki*, Mary Wakeham, Becky Ali, Miranda E G Armstrong, Paul B Willis, Ailsa M Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study aimed to explore the perceptions of Meals on Wheels service users, and people who refer them to Meals on Wheels (‘referrers’), with accessing and commencing the service in England, the barriers that might hinder service uptake, and what information would be valued when considering accessing the service.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted in May-July 2022 with seven service users and 21 referrers, recruited from four Meals on Wheels providers across England. Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Participants indicated various pathways into the service, but referrers (family members) were more likely to be the ones enquiring about, and commencing, Meals on Wheels for service users. Once an enquiry about Meals on Wheels had been made, the service was perceived as straightforward to set up. However, existing preconceptions and stereotypes were perceived to act as barriers to accessing Meals on Wheels. Information that participants deemed important to have available when deciding on whether to access Meals on Wheels related to the meals, the specific services provided, the reliability and flexibility of delivery, and the cost of services.

These findings could inform Meals on Wheels service providers’ public awareness strategies about Meals on Wheels, in order to facilitate referrals to the service for adults with care and support needs.
Patient or Public Contribution: An advisory group of people with lived experience of Meals on Wheels (users of the service and their family referrers) extensively discussed the findings of the research and advised on the implications and future dissemination steps.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13943
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This report is independent research by the National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR SSCR, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors.

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


  • carer
  • community meals
  • home-delivered meals
  • Meals on Wheels
  • qualitative research
  • referral


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