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Understanding excellence in responding to patient feedback about care

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Lawton
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Patient feedback is now widely regarded as an important perspective in understanding the quality and safety of healthcare services. In recent years there has been a proliferation of ways in which services can access feedback from patients and their families about the care they receive. However, there is an increasing recognition that simply gathering patient feedback about health services is not enough, and that considerable variability exists in the degree to which healthcare organisations seek to act on such feedback (Coulter, 2014).

This studentship will seek to utilise an emergent approach in healthcare services, called positive deviance, which aims to identify exceptional performance and understand the reasons for this difference (Lawton et al, 2014; Bradley et al, 2009). The studentship will be a collaboration between academics at the University of Leeds and the Bradford Institute for Health Research, and the UK’s largest online patient feedback site – Patient Opinion (see https://www.patientopinion.org.uk). The studentship would use a mixed methods approach, with an emphasis on qualitative methods to explore the behaviours and structures behind observed differences. The focus of the PhD would be to use the positive deviance approach as a basis for exploring a number of possible research questions, for example:

i) identifying which organisations or services consistently seek to act on online patient feedback, and what explains these differences;

ii) exploring what constitutes a high quality response to online patient feedback from individual staff, services and organisations;

iii) using appropriate exploratory methods, understanding the extent of change to services following the online responses by individual staff, services and organisations;

iv) exploring how services and organisations respond to feedback involving multiple care settings and providers;

v) exploring possible unintended consequences of staff engagement with online patient feedback.


This studentship is funded by CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber and our new Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, a partnership between Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and University of Leeds. Our aim is to deliver research that makes healthcare safer. Students will be hosted within the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, but will also spend at least one day per week at Bradford Royal Infirmary, working alongside the Quality and Safety Research Group.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit a student with a background in social science or social, clinical, health or occupational psychology OR a healthcare professional with a masters in research. If you are interested in making a difference to patient care and want to work at the cutting edge of research on patient safety we would welcome your application.

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 scholarship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form using the link below http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/download/3551/fmh_scholarship_application_2017_18 and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree certificates and transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) to the Faculty Graduate School [email protected]

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to [email protected] by no later than Wednesday 31 May 2017

If you have already applied for other scholarships using the Faculty Scholarship Application form you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email [email protected] to inform us you would like to be considered for this scholarship project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [email protected]

Funding Notes

This studentship will commence in October 2017 and will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees. This funding is provided by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

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