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Identifying and developing non-technical skills in community pharmacy to improve patient safety

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Prof Darren Ashcroft, Dr D Phipps, Dr M Lyons  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Building on over 10 years of experience researching safety culture in community pharmacies, we are keen to further explore the relationship between patient safety and community pharmacy work systems.

Non-technical skills (NTS) such as communication, situational awareness and decision-making have been suggested to be important for the work of healthcare professionals. Earlier research, within hospital settings in particular, has aimed to assess and train healthcare professionals in these skills. However, despite the proliferation of assessments and training interventions, there remain questions about the nature of NTS. The validity and reliability of these tools and the constructs behind them have not been fully explored, and there is little that has been applied within primary care settings.

For a community pharmacist, it is expected that the development of NTS accompanies the learning of technical skills in the path to qualification and then registration. However, there is no evidence base that defines which non-technical skills are paramount for community pharmacy staff and how to define measures and required standards of performance let alone defining which interventions are the most effective at ensuring improvement.

The aim of this NIHR-funded PhD studentship is to explore current understanding about NTS in healthcare, and to determine how it should be conceptualised in and applied to a community pharmacy context to improve patient safety.
Specific objectives are to:
- review existing literature on the definition, development and assessment of NTS (both in healthcare and in other sectors)
- collect empirical data from community pharmacies to identify the nature and role of NTS in this context
- develop valid and reliable measures to assess NTS
- define performance standards and guide teaching methods and materials to ensure the standards are met
- design and evaluate interventions to develop NTS amongst pharmacy teams, whether during on-the-job training or as part of pharmacy education

Specialised training in relevant research methods (both qualitative and quantitative) will be provided by the supervisory team. The supervisors have an extensive track record in conducting internationally-leading patient safety research with a team of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in the NIHR PSTRC.

The successful candidate would also attend relevant health services research training courses at the University, including short courses in the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health and in the Faculty of Humanities, as well as regular meetings of the Drug Usage and Pharmacy Practice Group and the PSTRC. Funding to attend external courses and/or present research findings at conferences will be available. For students with the appropriate qualifications, we can also provide support towards registered membership of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors. This studentship provides an excellent opportunity to conduct multidisciplinary research in a world-leading centre focussed on improving patient safety in healthcare settings.

Applicants are expected to hold a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant health or social sciences subject (e.g. pharmacy; psychology). A Master’s degree in health services research, patient safety, ergonomics/human factors or a similar subject is also desirable. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.

Funding Notes

NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centre – Greater Manchester 2017-2022.
This major NIHR award (£6.7 million) will support the continued funding of an extensive programme of innovative research into patient safety in primary care and across translational care settings in Greater Manchester. This studentship will cover tuition fees at UK/EU rate and also a stipend. This PhD will have a January 2018 start date.


Phipps DL, Tam WV, Ashcroft DM (2017). Integrating data from the UK National Reporting and Learning System with work domain analysis to understand patient safety incidents in community pharmacy. Journal of Patient Safety, 13, 6-13.

Thomas, C.E.L., Phipps, D.L., & Ashcroft, D.M. (2016). When procedures meet practice in community pharmacies: qualitative insights from pharmacists and pharmacy support staff. BMJ Open, 6, e010851.

Harvey, J., Avery, A.J., Ashcroft, D., Boyd, M., Phipps, D.L., & Barber, N. (2015). Exploring safety systems for dispensing in community pharmacies: Focussing on how staff relate to organizational components. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 11, 216-227.

Phipps DL, Malley C, Ashcroft DM (2012). Job Characteristics and Safety Climate: the Role of Effort-Reward and Demand-Control-Support Models. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology,17(3), 279-289.

Phipps, D.L., Noyce, P.R., Parker, D., & Ashcroft, D.M. (2009). Medication safety in community pharmacy: a qualitative study of the sociotechnical context. BMC Health Services Research, 9, 158.
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