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Stirling-led project aims to enhance NHS services

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An NHS nurse meets patients

A new £300,000 University of Stirling-led project aims to improve NHS services by ensuring decisions are informed by greater in-depth feedback from patients.

The two-year project will improve the way researchers use existing qualitative research on health services, to increase the likelihood that it will be used by NHS decision-makers.

The project - titled eMERGe - is funded by the National Institute of Health’s Health Services and Delivery Research Programme.  The project involves a partnership with leading academics from the Universities of Edinburgh, Bangor and Cardiff, and working closely with an international group of experts.

Dr Emma France, Senior Lecturer in the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) based at the University of Stirling, said: "Information about people’s experiences of health services and care should play a major role in improving NHS services, but this kind of data rarely influences decision making.

"Evidence about which treatments and services work is important and already informs health service design, but to create high quality patient-focused health services we also need to consider why and how they work and people’s experiences of using them.”

"Pulling together evidence from many existing qualitative studies, such as those using patient interviews or focus groups, can shed light on factors like why patients or health professionals behave in a certain way, or what it is like to experience an illness."

The project will focus on the use of a method called meta-ethnography, which is used to combine information from a range of qualitative studies. The team will be working closely with Professor George Noblit from the University of North Carolina, USA, who developed meta-ethnography.

This approach enables researchers to find new insights and conclusions regarding specific health topics, such as people’s experiences of being treated for arthritis.

Dr France said: "Low-quality reporting of meta-ethnographies is common, meaning patient groups, NHS staff and managers often lack trust in the findings and ultimately do not use them to improve decisions, services and patient care.

"The eMERGe project will develop guidelines to assist researchers in carrying out quality meta-ethnographies and reporting them to a high standard, meaning this rich information can be used to create better decision-making and improve outcomes for patients."

Media enquiries to David Tripp, Communications Officer on 01786 466 687 or

Notes for editors
Background information

The full title of the project is ‘Developing meta-ethnography reporting guidelines and standards for research (eMERGe)’

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1. The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme was established to fund a broad range of research. It builds on the strengths and contributions of two NIHR research programmes: the Health Services Research (HSR) programme and the Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) programme, which merged in January 2012. The programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence on the quality, access and organisation of health services, including costs and outcomes. The programme will enhance the strategic focus on research that matters to the NHS. The HS&DR Programme is funded by the NIHR with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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