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Improving Health Of Nations

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

An international research network based at the University of Leeds could shape future improvements to the structure and management of hospitals across the world.

Members of the Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change and the Centre for Innovation in Health Management have won €300,000 funding from COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) to coordinate comparative research into healthcare management in 19 countries, including many European nations, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the USA.

“Governments across Europe and other nations want to see greater efficiencies from the healthcare sector to cope with the demands of an ageing population and increased life expectancy,” explains the Business School’s Professor Ian Kirkpatrick, who is leading the four-year project.

Many countries have reformed their health services since the 1980s due to rising costs and changing patient needs. Central to these reforms have been attempts to involve senior doctors more fully in running hospitals and other services, by making them accountable for budgets and supervising junior staff.

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“These changes are assumed to have positive outcomes, such as improved quality of care and closer cooperation between health professionals, but there is still limited scientific evidence to support such conclusions,” says Professor Kirkpatrick. “We don’t really know how effective leadership training is at developing good managerial skills in doctors, let alone whether this has any positive effect on the delivery of healthcare services.”

Project partner Dr Susan Hamer from the Faculty of Medicine and Health adds, “In some cases doctors may be reluctant to support the ‘management culture’, associating this with cuts in services, or may simply lack appropriate training and support to fulfil a managerial role.

“We urgently need to answer these research questions to inform national and EU policy decisions, especially now that patients can cross borders and seek treatment anywhere within the EU.”

The CIHM’s success in securing funding follows on from their publication of findings from a three year enquiry into the relationship between doctors and health managers in the UK, and the impact of this relationship on outcomes for the treatment of patients and levels of service innovation.

The Centre’s director, Becky Malby, is in no doubt that the new research network will ultimately have far reaching consequences. “This project will identify and share best practice and innovations in healthcare organisation and managerial training - both within and outside the EU - and evaluate their impact on the patient experience”, she says.

Leeds will coordinate the activities of both new and established research groups in this field, including the European Health Management Association, the European Association of Hospital Managers, and the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE).