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Institute of Population Health Sciences (IPHS)

Unit for Complex Intervention and Social Practice in Health Care

The Unit for Complex Intervention and Social Practice in Health Care brings together researchers, educators and PhD students who seek to understand and embrace the complexity and ‘messiness’ of day-to-day primary health care and use this knowledge to improve patient experience and outcomes.

The research we do is mainly community-based and clinically-grounded but our portfolio also includes studies which investigate complex methodological issues – for example the nature of process evaluation in research, the conduct of pragmatic trials, the practices of interdisciplinary working, the role of evidence in implementation. We collaborate closely with the Pragmatic Clinical Trials Unit.

Our Unit includes scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds including medicine, nursing, public health, social anthropology, psychology, and social policy. Our research reflects this diversity and often draws on mixed methodological approaches, either bringing together quantitative and qualitative elements or involving mixed qualitative methods. It includes projects which begin with a phase of qualitative research to inform the development and evaluation of complex 'non-drug' interventions in trial settings. These trials are typically accompanied by a process evaluation so that we can learn not only 'what works' but how and why interventions work, and in what kinds of circumstances. Several projects have qualitative methods at their core. The Unit has a track record of leading in primary care research which uses novel methodologies such as ethnography, linguistic ethnography, co-design and narrative. Our collaborations are far-reaching and include fields as diverse as linguistics, history, philosophy, science and technology studies.

Some of our projects focus on patients with specific diseases (eg chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; dementia) but across all of our work is a collective interest in how disease and illness experiences interact with each other and with social context. Major current programmes of work include: the TANDEM study, an NIHR-funded mixed methods study which is developing a tailored cognitive-behaviour-therapy intervention for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with mild-to-moderate anxiety and depression; the APOLLO-MM study, an NIHR-funded ethnographic study which is employing mixed qualitative methods to explore patients’ and professionals’ experiences and practices in situations of 'high risk' polypharmacy to inform medicines optimisation; and the SURECAN study.

Several members of our Unit combine their research expertise with teaching posts in the Global Health Programmes or with part-time posts in the East London Research Design Service. Several combine their academic role with clinical work within the NHS. Most of the Unit members have some involvement in teaching medical undergraduates studying the MBBS curriculum.

Our Unit meets monthly to discuss research issues that members identify as important, current and of general interest to the group. In addition the ”Thinking between the Lines” group meets regularly to discuss qualitative approaches to research and social science theory.

Contact us

Complex Interventions and Social Practice in Health Care

Centre for Primary Care and Mental Health
Institute of Population Health Sciences
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Yvonne Carter Building
58 Turner Street
London E1 2AB