NHS R&D North West in partnership with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the University of Liverpool has put together a series of 3 hour long online seminars based on themed “provocations”. The series will seek to bring HSS research to bear on the non-clinical elements of medical practice for Early Career Researchers within NHS NW R&D and inspire new forms of cross-disciplinary collaboration thinking broadly within the discipline of medical humanities and social sciences. The range of topics covered will be challenging and linked to possible interventions in the thinking and application of NHS practice and research.  

The idea for this initiative emerged from conversations with individuals across the Faculty who already had some interest in health research, either directly or tangentially. It was becoming very clear from these conversations that the opportunity for developing a space to enable collaboration, knowledge exchange and impact as well as possible future collaboratives would be really powerful. Building on previous experience and the philosophical approach that underpins the work of NHS R&D NW, Dr Lucienne Loh and Dr Stuart Eglin discussed a practice-based approach for seminars, inspired by Open Space Technology, that is both democratic and highly participative.

For 10 years NHS R&D NW have been running a Catalyst Programme drawing on Open Space Technology. During COVID, the team developed online methods to deliver this approach and it is these methods that are adapted for this Provocations Seminar Series. The seminar is around two 45 minute “conversations” to allow all participants to work in smaller groups to consider the provocation and develop responses. These responses are then brought to the complete group in a final 30-minute session to summarise what has emerged and pull out any themes, calls to action and wider feedback. The online open space format is facilitated by an experienced NHS facilitator.  

The series began with a pilot session in July 2021 led by Dr Lucienne Loh from the Department of English with a seminar themed on “Racialised Consciousness”. Lucienne is a specialist on postcolonial identity and immigrant subjectivities.  She explored with NHS researchers the concept of “racialised consciousness”, or what it means to be both self-conscious about one’s racialised self and the racialised perspective of others. How does/can “racialised consciousness” affect NHS clinicians’ interactions with their patients? And how can structures and practices throughout the NHS themselves reflect greater racialised consciousness?

A recording of the seminar put together by Stuart and Lucienne after the event took place can be viewed below.

The second seminar held in October 2021 was led by Dr David Oakey and Dr Chris Jones of the Department of English at the University of Liverpool.  Dave and Chris are applied linguists who try to solve real world problems that have some linguistic cause.  They use corpus linguistics – using large databases of language in order to find common patterns e.g. phrases and studying those patterns to analyse form and function. They study language in use to identify connections between words and phrases in spoken and written communication between people in particular situations to see why messages may be imperfectly understood or not understood at all.  In this session they hoped to provoke new ways of thinking about the language you already use and, in many ways, already “know”.  How does the language you use impact on the clinical care you give? What different words and phrases would you use when talking to different kinds of patients and when talking to other colleagues.  What words and phrases are important to public health messaging around COVID-19?  How effective is public health messaging around COVID-19 in reaching marginalised groups in society?”

To learn more about what Chirs and Dave offered during this seminar please click here to watch a short film they prepared.

A recording of the seminar session can be viewed below.

The third seminar held in April 2022 was led by Dr Eduardo Coutinho, a Senior Lecturer of the Department of Music at the University of Liverpool. 

His work spans a variety of fields with an emphasis on the interdisciplinary areas of Music Psychology, Affective Sciences and Healthcare Informatics. He is also the Director of the Applied Music Research Lab (AM Lab), an interdisciplinary research group that aims to harness the benefits of music for improving people’s lives through the development of methods and tools that permit using music in systematic ways for improving different aspects of health and well-being. 

In this session, Eduardo explored with NHS clinical researchers the potential contribution of two music listening interventions for supporting (a) people living with depression, and (b) stroke survivors suffering from spasticity. In particular, he hoped the discussion led to some specific outcomes around: 

  • The perceived value of these interventions and the types of evidence that the NHS would need to consider to integrate and/or recommend them;
  • How these interventions could complement/extend/enhance existent treatment in acceptable and cost-effective ways;
  • Collaborations between the AM Lab and NHS clinicians develop research grant applications related to (these and other) music-based interventions; 
  • Ways of involving patients and clinicians in our research to develop meaningful music-based interventions that lead to tangible outcomes.

The fourth seminar held in March 2023, The Lived Experiences of People Bereaved by COVID-19, was led by Professor Lynn Sudbury-Riley from the University of Liverpool’s Management school . The session invited us to explore the topic in relation to people’s NHS experience and knowledge of clinical practice.  This explored two of the findings from recent research with people who lost relatives to COVID-19.

While there have been several important investigations into the handling of the pandemic, too many omit the voices of the bereaved.  This research collected narratives from 28 people who lost 30 relatives to COVID-19.  Results found experiences to be extremely arduous, with the clear message that a COVID-19 death is different to other deaths.  The seminar focused on two (of many) areas which made these experiences particularly difficult: the lack of suitable information technology and the almost total exclusion of families from end-of-life care and decision making.

To learn more about this research please click here to watch a film prepared by the University of Liverpool.

Prof Sudbury-Riley hoped the discussion will lead to specific outcomes around the following:

  • How can the NHS better harness technology to enhance communication between dying patients and their families?
  • What can be done at a local level to improve communication between clinicians and the families of patients?
  • How can participants embed the principles of person-centred care so that carers are identified, supported and involved in decision making?