This is an exciting opportunity to undertake a PhD in the first cohort of THIS Institute Fellows. The aim of THIS Institute is to create an evidence base that supports replicable and scalable improvements to healthcare delivery and patient experiences. This prestigious and generous award is available to an exceptional candidate who can demonstrate excellent academic ability, an enthusiasm for healthcare improvement, the drive and determination to undertake a PhD and an ambition to work in a multi-disciplinary team to deliver research that makes healthcare safer.

Research Project:

Within an NHS that has an acute shortage of time and resources, the often heard demand is ‘to do more with less’. The NHS is characterised by a tendency to add more initiatives, protocols and interventions in an attempt, at least in part, to make care safer. Such processes and practices are not always evidence based but they may become embedded in the culture of the institution. There is increasing recognition that some clinical procedures are unnecessary and can do more harm than good. Indeed, the Choosing Wisely campaign focuses on the removal of health technologies (Haas et al, 2012), clinical tests and treatments that offer little or no benefit (see for example Bekelis et al 2017). However, it is also important to consider the necessity of non-clinical safety practices (Norton et al 2017).

It is plausible, however, that the staff themselves might know which safety practices are not fit-for-purpose, do not result in benefits for safety or are just not possible to implement. While the use of bottom-up processes may prove more promising, there is little evidence on how to do this work or whether healthcare staff are able to identify low value safety practices that might represent opportunities for ‘disinvestment’ in the context of safety. This PhD Fellowship will use mixed methods to identify and prioritise potential low-value safety practices and develop and test the feasibility of an intervention for stopping these practices.

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.

Read more about the research project here.

Supervisors: Professor Rebecca Lawton and Professor Mark Conner

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 enthusiastic, 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.

This project is supported by the Health Foundation’s grant to the University of Cambridge for The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (THIS.Institute). For more information about THIS.Institute see

This PhD scholarship is available for UK and EU citizens only. The scholarship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £17,500 in the first year, £18,025 in the second year and £18,566 in the third year, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees.

Find out more:



If you would like to know more about this scholarship or the work of the Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC, please contact: Professor Rebecca Lawton or  Professor Mark Conner (

Closing date for this scholarship is Friday 26 October, with an anticipated start date of early 2019.