A new research institute led by the University of Cambridge is seeking to create a world-leading asset for the NHS by improving the science behind healthcare organisation and delivery.
The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (THIS Institute) is made possible by the largest single grant ever made by the Health Foundation (£45m), an independent charity. The new institute is founded on the principle that efforts to improve care should always be based on the best quality of evidence. Some of that evidence will be created by NHS patients and staff themselves, using innovative citizen science methods in large-scale research projects.
Director of THIS Institute Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, said: “If you ask people to describe the future of healthcare, they might describe a shiny vision of new treatments and technologies. These kinds of innovations are important. But how healthcare is organised and delivered, including its basic systems and processes, has perhaps just as much impact, and sometimes more, on patient outcomes and experience.”
Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said: “The UK population clearly wants a high quality and sustainable NHS into the future. Understanding what works, in which contexts and why, is crucial, as is obtaining that evidence fast so it can be acted on. There couldn’t be a more important time to do this, and that is why the Health Foundation has put its money where its mouth is.”
One way the institute will create the evidence-base is through citizen science. Using methods already used in other areas such as biology and astronomy, THIS Institute is building a digital platform to crowdsource research ideas and collect research data from NHS staff and patients, including their opinions on the right indicators of quality of care and their views on equipment design.
Professor Dixon-Woods, Director, THIS Institute, adds: “Tackling healthcare challenges needs to involve a greater variety of people with diverse experience: the institute is looking for expertise in new places.
Some of this expertise will come directly from patients – us, you, me – working alongside healthcare staff and other professionals such as engineers and designers.”
The institute will formally launch on 31 January, and will be based at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, alongside Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and world-leading research institutes. It is made possible by a ten-year grant from the Health Foundation, whose mission is to bring about better health and healthcare for people in the UK.