Doctor taking oxygen and pulse readings from an elderly patient
Funding will enable study of digital tools to reduce risk in acute care and maternal health settings

Expectant mums and anyone needing emergency treatment will both benefit from funding for new research to improve patient safety and reduce the risk of harm.

The University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust will be establishing the first research collaboration focused on patient safety based in the Midlands, thanks to new funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research. The announcement made today by the Department for Health and Social Care will see £3.4m invested in world-leading research that supports patient safety in maternal and acute care settings.

The newly announced NIHR Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration (PSRC) will bring together NHS trusts, universities, and private business to evaluate how digital tools can support clinical decision making and reduce risks for patients.

Professor Alice Turner is a Professor of Respiratory Medicine in the Institute for Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham, Honorary Consultant Respiratory Physician at University Hospitals Birmingham, and Co-Director of the NIHR Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration along with Professor Richard Lilford, Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Alice Turner said:

“Patient safety is at the forefront of every clinician’s mind and runs at the heart of the whole healthcare system. The power of new technology available to us means that we can address one of the ongoing areas of risk for patients, which is effective communication and clinical decision making.

“Thanks to the new funding from NIHR and with the support of partners, the new collaboration will be looking at how digital tools can make a real difference to reduce risks and support patient safety in the key areas of acute medicine and maternal health.”

Two doctors standing side by side holding an ipad pointing at an xray of a face
The funding will evaluate how digital clinical decision making support tools can detect and reduce risks for patients

Acute Care

Patients requiring emergency medical care in acute services will benefit as new digital decision-making tools could improve prescribing and personalised management.

Thanks to the funding, the NIHR Midlands PSRC will trial digital clinical decision support tools which will provide smoother flow of information between healthcare professionals in acute care. Working with acute care hospitals, primary care providers and the West Midlands Ambulance Service, the researchers will review how the digital tools can reduce risks of patient harm at key points in acute care management.

Professor Elizabeth Sapey, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and an Honorary Respiratory Consultant at the University Hospitals Birmingham said:

“The vision is that every healthcare professional involved in a patients journey in acute care has access to the same information, the same decision-making support, and is able to both spot and flag any point where patients might be at increased risk of harm.

“We know that a disproportionate number of medical errors happen in acute services, and around half of patients experience a clinical error in what can be a complex journey. As acute care becomes more heavily relied on, it is critical that we use technology available to us to ensure that our patients are kept safe and risk is managed.”

A clinician conducting an ultrasound scan of a white pregnant woman
Digital tools may be able to help healthcare professionals identify which mothers need extra support and care.

Maternal Health

Mothers and babies will benefit from the new research collaboration to look at how digital tools can support antenatal decision making.

The collaboration will examine the effectiveness of clinical decision-making tools to recognise risks among expectant mothers, particularly among marginalised groups who experience worse outcomes and quality of care compared to the general population.

Professor Shakila Thangaratinam, Co-Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Women’s Health at the University of Birmingham and Consultant Obstetrician at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital said:

“Maternal and perinatal mortality reports in the UK have highlighted that there are real issues when it comes to identifying and responding to risk. One of the key priorities is identifying early in pregnancy those mothers who need the extra support and care, thereby ensuring that women receive individualised care during pregnancy.

“With this new funding from the NIHR, we can evaluate how digital tools can help clinicians ensure that no mum falls ‘through the net’ in identifying risk, and ensure every family receives the right level of support.”

One of the key priorities is identifying early in pregnancy those mothers who need the extra support and care.

Professor Shakila Thangaratinam

Partners involved in the NIHR Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration

  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
  • University of Birmingham
  • Birmingham Women’s and Children's NHS Foundation Trust
  • West Midlands Academic Health Science Network
  • NHS Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board
  • University of Warwick
  • University of Aberdeen
  • Clevermed Limited
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust