PhD Studentship: Understanding excellence in responding to patient feedback about care

University of Leeds - School of Psychology - Yorkshire Quality and Safety Research Group, Bradford Institute for Health Research

Supervisors: Professor Rebecca Lawton, Dr Jane O’Hara, Dr Laura Sheard, Dr James Munro
Funding: National Institute for Health Research

A PhD studentship available for UK and EU citizens only. The studentship 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.

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.

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.


In recent years there has been many ways in which services can access feedback from patients and their families about the care they receive. However, there is an increasing recognition that 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 feedback.

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 difference. You 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:

  1. i) identifying which organisations or services consistently seek to act on online patient feedback
  2. ii) exploring what constitutes a high quality response to online patient feedback;

iii) understanding the extent of change to services following the online responses;

  1. iv) exploring how services and organisations respond to feedback involving multiple care settings and providers;
  2. v) exploring possible unintended consequences of staff engagement with online patient feedback.


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.

How to apply:

To apply for this scholarship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to 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 to inform us you would like to be considered for this project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to 

Closing date for this studentship is Wednesday 31 May 2017

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