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Transitions of care for patients with mental illness

   Faculty of Medicine and Health

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  Prof R Lawton, Dr J O'Hara  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Transitions of care for patients with mental illness, both in and out of hospital and between services are known to be challenging and risky for a wide variety of reasons including lack of continuity of care, changes in routine, exposure to stress, coercive practices and lack of follow up support. However, there is no existing measure to assess the experience at transitions for people with Serious Mental Illness. This PhD scholarship, will review existing literature and service user experiences of transitions of care. We will focus on transitions from hospital to community services where there has been much less focus. With support from our service user advisory group, you will draw on and adapt an existing measure of patient experience and safety at transitions of care developed by our group in collaboration with Charles Vincent. This will be tested and validated with a cohort of patients transitioning from an inpatient to community setting, allowing further understanding of the nature of safety events at transitions for these patient groups. We will also explore the role of peer workers in collecting these data. This PhD scholarship will be undertaken in collaboration with Greater Manchester PSTRC who have agreed to act as project advisors.

Research on safety in mental health settings is limited compared to physical healthcare settings. While there is some overlap in pertinent safety outcomes, there are also important differences and transferability cannot be assumed. For example, both the manifestations of some mental illnesses and the risk management strategies deployed are inherently risky. Safety research in mental health settings must acknowledge this complexity, the interplay of physical and mental health and the multiple meanings of safety that depend on the perspective adopted: service users, family, healthcare professionals, service managers and regulators. We will be pragmatic in the theoretical frameworks adopted but cognisant that a Safety II approach may offer a lens that allows us to acknowledge this complexity.

Working with Professor Rebecca Lawton and Professor Jane O’Hara at the University of Leeds and colleagues at Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and Mental Health Trusts across West Yorkshire, holders of our prestigious PhD studentships will work within the dynamic research teams at YH PSTRC, which is at the forefront of patient safety research providing nationally and internationally important patient safety research.


The scholarship will be based across the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, and the Bradford Institute for Health Research. YH PSTRC PhD students will become NIHR trainees and can benefit from a range of training support and resources to develop your knowledge and health research skills. They will also be embedded within the Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Group, which is a friendly and dynamic group of researchers conducting high-quality, rigorous and applied research to develop and evaluate innovative solutions to patient safety problems.

YH PSTRC is a collaboration between the Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and the Universities of Leeds and Bradford. Our mission is to deliver research to make healthcare safer. We are one of only three NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres in England. Our work draws on the knowledge and expertise of well-established networks of researchers, patients/carers, clinicians and industry partners to develop ideas that address patient safety problems. 

Our research focusses on four themes that recognise the central role of patients and their carers, the importance of creating workplaces that people want to work in, the safe use of medicines, and the exciting potential for digital technology to improve safety.


You will be enthusiastic, organised and motivated with experience in, or knowledge of mental health services. You will have a first degree equivalent to a Bachelor Honours degree at 2:1 or above, or a strong postgraduate degree in psychology, social science or a health-related subject. Importantly, you will be committed to fully engaging with patients, carers and staff to conduct high-quality research and keen to develop your research skills.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

• British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

How to apply:

Applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this scholarship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Healthcare as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert
  • For source of funding please state you are applying for an NIHR YH PSTRC funded scholarship 

As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Within the School of Healthcare we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+; and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.

For further information about the application process please contact the Faculty Graduate School

e: [Email Address Removed]

If you would like to know more about this studentship or the work of the YH PSTRC, please contact:

Professor Rebecca Lawton (e. [Email Address Removed]) or Professor Jane O'Hara (e. [Email Address Removed])

You can find out more about the NIHR YH PSTRC at

Funding Notes

This PhD project is funded by the NIHR Yorkshire & Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (YH PSTRC). The scholarship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £15,609 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK academic fees.


1. Tyler, N., Wright, N., & Waring, J. (2019). Interventions to improve discharge from acute adult mental health inpatient care to the community: systematic review and narrative synthesis. BMC health services research, 19(1), 1-24.
2. Wright, N., Rowley, E., Chopra, A., Gregoriou, K., & Waring, J. (2016). From admission to discharge in mental health services: a qualitative analysis of service user involvement. Health Expectations, 19(2), 367-376.
3. Oikonomou, E., Chatburn, E., Higham, H., Murray, J., Lawton, R., & Vincent, C. (2019). Developing a measure to assess the quality of care transitions for older people. BMC health services research, 19(1), 1-12.
4. Oikonomou, E., Page, B., Lawton, R., Murray, J., Higham, H., & Vincent, C. (2020). Validation of the Partners at Care Transitions Measure (PACT-M): assessing the quality and safety of care transitions for older people in the UK. BMC health services research, 20(1), 1-13.
5. Thibaut B, Dewa LH, Ramtale SC, et al Patient safety in inpatient mental health settings: a systematic review BMJ Open 2019;9:e030230. 
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