Launch of the Health Services Research Centre at Alliance Manchester Business School
These are among the most challenging times the NHS has ever witnessed, challenges which are throwing up a multitude of questions for academics researching the field.
For instance, what are the features of the NHS that lead to big differences in the quality of care and performance, and what can be done about them? Are the structures that govern the NHS and the way it is organised fit for purpose? Is there sufficient governance? And what kinds of interventions can be made?
Researching these questions and going beyond the empirical facts and testing theories lies at the heart of the new Health Services Research Centre (HSRC) which has been launched at Alliance Manchester Business School, and which brings together for the first time a critical mass of researchers in the field.
The Centre, which has received funding from the Lord Alliance Family Foundation via his donation to the School, is a flagship initiative for Alliance MBS. The School has always had great scale, depth and talent in the health research arena and now has an effective shop window for all its talents.
The Centre is a starting point for a new way of working, and will not just foster inter-disciplinary research across the whole of The University of Manchester but also be a focal point for people outside The University, building on the School’s national and international links.
The Centre is built around four central themes. Firstly, how care and services are organised and what role incentives, behaviour change and innovation can play in today’s health system. Secondly, it looks at management knowledge and how managers go about their everyday work and how these roles are changing. It also look at the wider role of governance and the role of the board in leadership, management and change, and how new work practices are being embedded.
Thirdly, it looks at implementation and getting research knowledge into practice, while finally it looks at improvement and performance, and the interventions that can be made in terms of: the design and evaluation of regulatory regimes; the reform of health professions and regulation; improvement capability; and performance decline and failure.
If you just take the latter theme the potential impact is extensive. For instance, the Centre can present findings to bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, the European forum of health regulators, the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities and the International Society for Quality in Healthcare. It can also advise bodies such as Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Optical Council, as well as Whitehall through the House of Commons Select Committee.
A big area of research is happening right on our doorstep, namely the devolution of health and social care services across Greater Manchester. The research implications of ‘Devo Manc’ are very significant and not just confined to this region, and the Centre is already working on the ground and analysing the development of this great experiment.
The initiative throws up many fascinating questions. What are the governance and accountability issues that flow from devolution? What insights can be gained from Manchester being a centre of excellence? What can we learn from the experience? And what does it tell us about how citizens get more engaged?
As the devolution experiment is already showing, there can be a mismatch between the different competitive forces that shape the NHS today – whether policy, patient or organisational – and this can sometimes work against effective collaboration. Looking ahead, teasing out such tensions and contradictions will form a vital part of the Centre’s wider work.