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Uncovering the invisible labour that patients and families undertake to support the safety and quality of cancer care

Faculty of Medicine and Health

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Dr J O'Hara , Dr K Absolom No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is an exciting opportunity to undertake a PhD within the Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC), a partnership between the University of Leeds and Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Aim: To explore, document and understand how patients and their families support the safety and quality of cancer care.

A strategy for improving diagnosis of, and survival with, cancer is an integral part of the recently published 10-year plan for the NHS, in part due to the UK’s poor survival rates when compared with most of Europe. Indeed, the UK’s top 10 research priorities for living with and beyond cancer include improved strategies for preventing the short and longer term effects of cancer. Therefore, improving our understanding about the role that patients and families have in supporting the safety and effectiveness of cancer care from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, is desirable.

This will be a qualitative PhD including interviews, observations, and visual modelling of care services. The studentship would begin with a systematic review of the literature on how patients and families support cancer diagnosis and treatment. This would be followed by two in-depth qualitative studies examining first, the perspective of patients and families in the work undertaken by them that supports the safety and quality of cancer care; and second, the perspective of staff on how patients and families support safety and quality of cancer care. Both these studies will have an overt focus on uncovering the ‘invisible labour’ undertaken by patients and their carers. In the final study, new approaches to conceptualising and visually representing healthcare processes (e.g. the Functional Resonance Analysis Model, Hollnagel 2012) will be used to draw these data together, and document how patients and families support the safety and quality of care across the cancer pathway. Interview data may be supplemented with observational data from different parts of the pathway, to support the modelling of the system. The final developed model will support future efforts to understand how to partner with patients and families to support cancer care quality and safety.


The successful applicant will work with Dr Jane O’Hara and Dr Kate Absolom at the University of Leeds, and Dr Laura Sheard and Dr Ruth Baxter based at the Bradford Institute for Health Research. The holder of this prestigious PhD Fellowship will also be embedded within the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (, a research team at the forefront of patient safety research in the UK. The University of Leeds, a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, is one of the top 10 Universities in the UK and is ranked in the top 100 universities in the QS World University Rankings 2019.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree, or suitable postgraduate degree in psychology, social science or a health-related subject. You will be organised and motivated with experience in, or knowledge of healthcare services. Importantly, you will be committed to fully engaging with staff and patients and a wider multi-disciplinary team to conduct high-quality research that is of value to the NHS.

The Faculty minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English 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:

To apply for this project applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form using the link below and send this alongside a 300 word research proposal based on the project brief, a full academic CV, degree certificates and transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) to the Faculty Graduate School at [Email Address Removed]

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to [Email Address Removed] by no later than Friday 21 June.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [Email Address Removed].

If you would like to know more about this scholarship or the work of the Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC, please contact: Dr Jane O’Hara (j.o’[Email Address Removed]).

Planned interview date Friday 5 July 2019

Funding Notes

This PhD scholarship is available for UK and EU citizens only, commencing on 1 October 2019. The scholarship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,777, increasing each year subject to satisfactory progress, and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees.

This project is supported by the National Institute for Health Research
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