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Economic and Social Research Council - Doctoral Training Centre - Collaborative PhD Studentship investigating Written Communication between Hospital-based Specialists, GPs and Patients in the UK

This ESRC-funded collaborative PhD aims to identify issues and improve the effectiveness of communication between hospital-based specialists, GPs and patients. The project is a collaboration between the Centre for Applied Linguistics, Warwick Medical School and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups of Coventry and Rugby, and of South Warwickshire.

Effective communication among medical care providers and their patients is crucial to ensuring patients receive safe, effective and timely care; are engaged with the process; and understand the care plan and advice it is intended that they should follow. But findings of a scoping exercise point to several problems in this communication, such as a lack of detail in discharge letters (eg about the diagnosis and recommended treatment), insufficient case specific details (eg baseline test data, target levels, advice given to patients), a lack of information about recommended follow-up care, and the extensive use of abbreviations. Patients are sometimes copied into this communication, but the extent to which this is informative and beneficial is unknown. The research of the doctoral studentship will help address these issues by critically analysing current practices of writing hospital discharge summaries in the NHS with the overall aim of developing new guidance for best practice.

In order to critically analyse the current practice of written discharge communication and to assess its quality and effectiveness from the perspectives of patients, GPs and hospital specialists, the proposed PhD will combine established research tools and methods used within qualitative health services research (such as focus group discussions and expert interviews with patients, GPs and hospital specialists) with tools and practices developed in linguistics research (most notably discourse analysis and content analysis of the actual discharge communication documents). Training in the relevant research methods will be provided via the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Warwick, the Graduate School through the participating departments, and the National Centre for Research Methods. There will also be opportunities for fieldwork at participating Clinical Commissioning Groups, hospitals and general practices to observe clinical practice and commissioning activities relevant to the research.

The academic supervisors for the PhD will be Dr Stephanie Schnurr (Centre for Applied Linguistics) and Prof Jeremy Dale (Warwick Medical School) and the research will involve close working with NHS managers in the collaborating Clinical Commissioning Groups. The successful candidate will be expected to start in October 2015 and can be based within the Centre for Applied Linguistics or the Medical School, dependent on their experience and interests. Applications must be submitted by Friday 17 April 2015 and interviews will take place on Tuesday 5 May 2015.

The ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Warwick, one of 21 such centres in the UK, embodies the University’s commitment to producing the next generation of leaders in social science research. It covers a range of subjects and interdisciplinary training pathways. The studentship covers fees and maintenance stipend and extensive support for research training, as well as research activity support grants. Information about residential eligibility

To apply for the studentship, please fill in the online application form.

For queries relating to the application procedure or the studentship, please email Stephanie Schnurr at or Jeremy Dale at Jeremy dot Dale at warwick dot ac dot uk.