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New research collaborations will address patient safety challenges

Published: 14 October 2022

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded £25 million to fund Patient Safety Research Collaborations (PSRCs) across England. 

These collaborations will carry out research to improve patient safety, looking at topics such as service delivery models, patient safety behaviours, clinical decision making, and transitions between care settings.

Six PSRCs have been awarded funding, twice as many as the three funded previously, with new collaborations based in Birmingham, Central London and Newcastle in addition to existing collaborations in Manchester, North West London and Yorkshire and Humber. 

The research carried out by the PSRCs will address strategic patient safety challenges within the health and care system, focusing on seven strategic areas set out by NHS England. These areas cover issues such as clinical risk scores, which enable professionals to identify people who may benefit from preventive interventions, and improving the culture and practice in organisations to promote patient safety. 

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said: “Patient safety is about maximising the things that go right and minimising the things that go wrong for people receiving healthcare. We are aligning our funding with the strategic priorities from NHS England and ensuring that we are addressing the issues that really matter to patients.

“This new round of funding gives the best researchers the opportunity to assess innovations and approaches that could shift this balance for the better.”

Over the next 5 years, the PSRCs will help researchers to develop and test innovations, approaches and interventions that could improve patient safety and the safety of health and care services. The funding will also enable partnerships to be built between health and care organisations, universities, local authorities, and patients and the public. 

A coordinated response

In addition to funding six PSRCs, the NIHR is also providing new, additional funding to establish a network between these collaborations. The network will provide a platform for strategic coordination and a focal point for collaboration between the PSRCs. 

For example, in times of national crises, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, the network could work with partners and respond as a single entity. The role of leading the network will be awarded through a competitive process, with further details provided soon.

10 years of patient safety research

This funding is an evolution from the current NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centre scheme, which has been running since 2012. Previous research undertaken through the scheme has already had an impact on NHS frontline services.

For example, in Manchester, the team helped develop a set of safety indicators to identify patients at risk of harm from prescribing errors. In addition, they helped to test and implement  a pharmacist-led IT-based intervention based on these indicators that could reduce prescribing errors. This intervention has now been rolled out nationally.

In London, researchers have been looking at how to improve decision-making in the multidisciplinary teams responsible for cancer care. They have identified some issues that occurred in team meetings, recommending that teams streamline their workload to reduce meetings, limit the number of cases discussed and select a chair who does not contribute to the clinical discussion.

Yorkshire and Humber have been investigating how to help the elderly manage their medicines safely. The team have shown that people aged 65 years and over are less likely to be readmitted to hospital if they are given help with their medication for three months after discharge. The team are now developing an intervention to improve medication self-management that could be trialled in the UK.

Research from the PSTRCs has also covered topics such as COVID-19, highlighting that fewer people asked their GP or hospital for mental health support during a lockdown, and the NHS workforce, showing that physician associates need support to establish their role.

The funded PSRCs 2022 - 2027

Name Host institution
NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Research Collaboration Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust
NIHR Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
NIHR North West London Patient Safety Research Collaboration Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
NIHR Central London Patient Safety Research Collaboration University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
NIHR Newcastle Patient Safety Research Collaboration The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Research Collaboration Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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