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The impact of the decision-making environment on resolving wicked problems in healthcare.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr W Thomas
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Health services are constantly faced with complex decisions with no easy solution. In this PhD research you will look at the impact of the decision-making environment on finding solutions to these problems. Decision-making environments influence the mechanisms available for the resolution of problems and also how problems are defined, how challenges are prioritised, and which groups or individuals are empowered to play a role in problem identification and resolution. Your work will focus on understanding this environment in relation to the way in which decisions are made, paying close attention to important elements such as trust, the management of risk and dependency relations.

You will pay close attention to how the environment is constructed by its participants – for example, how legislation and the guidance of bodies such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is interpreted. You will also focus on power mechanisms in the operation of decision-making processes: where power is generated, what its limits are, and how power is exercised. In doing so, your work will help to understand what the features of an environment in which complex problems can be successfully tackled are. You will explore that idea of a ‘supportive and permissive environment’ – where those involved in finding solutions to complex problems are supported and protected to see whether this concept offers insights that might be useful in improving the processes of decision-making in health services.

For more information on the supervisors for this project please go to:

Primary Academic Supervisor: Dr Will Thomas:
Secondary Academic Supervisor: Prof Sanna Laulainen :
Associate Academic Supervisor: Robert Price

Type of programme: PhD

Start date of project: October 2020

Mode of study: Full-time

Length of studentship: 3 year funded period

Location: Ipswich Campus

Funding Notes

The University of Suffolk are pleased to offer this project as a fee waiver scholarship. The cost of your PhD fees will be covered by the University, however living costs will need to be considered and accounted for by the candidate.


Grint, K (2010) ‘Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: The Role of Leadership’, in Brookes, S. and Grint, K. The New Public Leadership Challenge, London: Springer, p169-186

Stapley, L.F. (1996) The Personality Of Organization A Psycho-Dynamic Explanation Of Culture And Change, London: Free Association Books
Thomas, W. et al (2018) The Management of Wicked Problems in Health and Social Care, London: Routledge
Thomas, W. and Hollinrake, S. (2014) Policymakers, researchers and service users – resolving the tensions and dilemmas of working together, Innovation, the European Journal of Social Science Research 27:1:31-45

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