Yvonne Sawbridge

Yvonne Sawbridge

Health Services Management Centre
Senior Fellow

Contact details

School of Social Policy, Health Services Management Centre
Park House
University of Birmingham
B15 2RT

Yvonne Sawbridge Joined HSMC in 2011 after a varied career in NHS, latterly as a Director of Nursing and Quality in South Staffs PCT. A Registered General Nurse & Health Visitor by profession, Yvonne has worked operationally and strategically in many organisations across the health system and worked as both a provider and commissioner. She is a founding member of The 'Q' Initiative, a Health Foundation and NHSE sponsored idea to develop a connected community working together to improve health care quality across the UK.

At HSMC she is the programme director for the regional leadership programme commissioned by HE West Midlands; co-designed two modules for the Leadership Academy’s Anderson Programme; and is a  cohort director for the Bevan programme. She also runs two Masters modules- commissioning and quality assurance. Her consultancy projects are varied, from developing a local leadership strategy through to evaluating the national Return to Nursing programme for HEE. Her main research interest is in Emotional Labour as a less well understand contributory factor to the delivery of poor patient care. Listen to Yvonne's TEDx talk which describes this concept.  

Yvonne specialises in:

  • Leadership
  • Developing compassionate organisations
  • Primary care
  • Quality Improvement


  • MSc in Primary Health Care Policy and Practice, University of Birmingham, HSMC (2003)
  • Registered Health Visitor, Birmingham Polytechnic (1986)
  • Registered General Nurse, Good Hope School of Nursing (1984)


Yvonne has enjoyed a wide and varied career across all aspects of the NHS, and developed numerous skills and expertise as a result. Her last post as Director of Quality & Nursing in a large PCT involved responsibility for a range of portfolios. This included Board Nurse responsibility for professional practice and standards in the PCT’s provider services; developing the strategy for quality assurance and quality improvements in services commissioned from a multitude of providers and establishing the new organisation’s performance management framework when the PCT was first set up in 2006. She has worked closely with practice based commissioners; local authority partners-particularly in the Children’s Trust and Adult & Children’s Safeguarding Boards and several providers both statutory and third sector, such as local Hospices.

She has worked with others to redesign services from the planning stages right through to implementation, and has involved users and patients as part of this process. Her biggest challenge has been to develop mechanisms to use patient experience effectively in the commissioning process. This was partly in response to the substandard care provided in Mid Staffs Hospital, of which the PCT was the main commissioner, but mainly because her career in the NHS was always focused upon patients and service users.

Yvonne has presented at numerous conferences over the last few years to both clinical and managerial audiences.


  1. Masters - Yvonne is co-convenes two of HSMC’s Masters level modules: Strategic Commissioning and Healthcare Quality- Measuring and Assuring. She also teaches on other modules across a range of topics.
  2. Leadership - Yvonne is a Cohort Director for the Bevan programme- one of the Leadership Academy’s commissioned programmes. She has also designed and delivered a number of other leadership programmers (see consultancy)


Yvonne’s main research interest relates to identifying solutions to poor nursing care, (see 'Time to care?” HSMC Policy paper 12 December 2011) and she has jointly led two action research project with local Trusts to implement models of emotional support for nurses, and other staff - see 'Time to Care'  and 'Set to Care'. She has developed International links via this research with University of Illinois in Chicago and will be some of this work at a Nursing Congress in Vancouver in 2016.

Together with Alistair Hewison – Senior Lecturer at the School of  Nursing at the University, she is using the learning from their research to establish a community of practice in the area of developing compassionate organisations by providing systems of support for staff, and is running an Improvement Lab entitled 'Yellow hats are not just for builders' to take this work further.

Recent research projects also include evaluation of the impact of the NHS reforms on cancer services: evaluating the national Return to Nursing Practice campaign and she is currently evaluating primary care collaboratives.

Her dissertation was submitted in 2003 - 'What helps & hinders to deliver the Chief Nursing Officer’s 10 Key Roles for Nurses' (related to developing professional practice).

Current and previous projects

  • Evaluation of Human Factors interventions in General Practice Settings (Bid accepted provisionally July 2016)
  • Improvement Lab- “ Yellow Hats are not just for builders”- supporting staff with their emotional labour Sept 2016
  • Primary Care collaborations-Scoping work. Autumn 2016
  • Evaluation of a Compassion Recognition scheme in West Midlands Autumn 2016
  • Developing a primary care strategy for Cross City CCG (2015)
  • National Return to Nursing Practice (RTP) (2014-2015)
  • Set to care-enhancing compassionate care in practice: An Action Learning approach
  • She was part of the design team developing the Leadership Academy commissioned Elizabeth Garratt Anderson programme, responsible for Modules 1 and 6 (working with a colleague).
  • Cohort Director for the Bevan Leadership Academy programme- cohorts 17 and 21 currently.

Other activities


Yvonne offers a variety of consultancy services, building on both her previous service experience, and utilizing her academic skills to ensure practice is evidence based. Examples are as follows:

  • Working with colleagues she has designed and delivered a number of System Leadership masterclasses, and a Pilot programme working with three teams across local health and care systems. This is due to be evaluated in 2016/17.
  • Working closely with Dudley CCG to help them develop and evaluate their commissioning approach- in particular their model of Integration. They are also employing a research assistant as part of their intention to build upon the evidence base for effective commissioning, and to help them link the theory practice gap in their everyday business, for the benefit of their population. Yvonne Sawbridge is their initial link, and the expertise of the HSMC team will be utilised as appropriate.
  • She is part of the design team developing the Leadership Academy commissioned Elizabeth Garratt Anderson programme, responsible for Modules 1 and 6 (working with a colleague).
  • She developed Quality Strategies and a Quality Assurance visiting pack and teaching programme for CCGs.
  • At HSMC Yvonne is one of the team offering personal development programmes. She is trained to facilitate the NHS leadership framework 360 degree tool, and also the Hogan development tool (being used on the Bevan leadership programme currently).
  • She designed and delivered (as Course Tutor) the Black Country Cluster “Leadership in a new system of healthcare” programme.
  • She has co-delivered stand alone Strategic Commissioning modules for Somerset PCT.
  • She led the design and facilitation of both a national and local simulation exercise, commissioned by the NHS Commissioning Board, to test how CCGs might utilise new commissioning support services. Report - 'Steering or Rowing?'
  • After a 3 year gap,  in 2014 the highly successful Aspiring Directors programme was re-commissioned by Health Education West Midlands and Yvonne has changed roles from a Cohort to the Programme Director. A further programme for 2016 - 2017 has also been commissioned.
  • She is a member of the “Safe Staffing Alliance” established in 2013 who have used evidence to establish their “Never more than 8” campaign” – if there are more than 8 patients to a Registered nurse on a hospital ward, then patient safety is compromised . More information can be found at the Safe Staffing Alliance website.

Yvonne is also a keen 'blogger' and her recent posts can be seen under publications below.



Sawbridge,Y et al. (2017)  It’s the little things they remember. The importance of compassion in the NHS. Health Service Journal, 10 May 2017.


Hewison, A. and Sawbridge, Y.  (eds) (2016) Compassion in Nursing: Theory, Evidence and Practice.  Palgrave Macmillan, London.  ISBN 9781137443694.

Sawbridge Y, Hewison A. (2016) Yellow hats are not just for builders. HSJ, published online on 31st October 2016.


Sawbridge, Y. (2015) If the government really wants to help it must support NHS staff. Health Service Journal, published online on 4 September 2015.

Sawbridge, Y. and Brown, H. (2015) Evaluating the national return to nursing practice programme. Health Services Management Centre, June 2015.

Hewison, A. and Sawbridge, Y. (2015) Organisational support for nurses in acute care settings: a rapid evidence review. International Journal of Healthcare, Vol 1 (1): 48 – 60.

Sawbridge, Y. and Hewison, A. (2015) ‘Compassion costs nothing’—the elephant in the room? Practice Nursing 26 (4).


Hewison A & Sawbridge Y (2014) Analysing poor care in hospitals in England: The policy challenge.  Recherche & Fomation 76, 33-48.  

Hewison A & Sawbridge Y (2014) Resume long.  L’analyse de la mediocrite des soins infirmiers dans les hopitaux Angleterre: une question politique.  Recherche & Fomation 76, 49-50.

Sawbridge, Y. and Needham, C. (2014) Emotionally qualified. Nursing Standard, 29 (13): 26 – 27.

Sawbridge, Y. and Hewison, A. (2014) Making compassionate care the norm starts with our staff. Health Service Journal, Published online on 25 July 2014.

Brown, H., Ellins, J., Jackson, O., Gale, N., Sawbridge, Y. and Morton, D. (2014) An evaluation of cancer surgery services in the UK. A report for Cancer Research UK by the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, and ICF – GHK consulting, February 2014.


Sawbridge, Y. (2013) Ask not what your country can do for you. Health Service Journal. (Accessed 28 October 2013).

Sawbridge, Y. (2013) A response to the Berwick report: Time to Care? Mary Agnew Blog, 14 August 2013 (Accessed 31 October 2013).

Needham, C., Sawbridge, Y. And Williams, I. (2013), Tesco and Starbucks have little to teach the NHS. Health Service Journal. (Accessed 31 October 2013).

Sawbridge Y and Hewison A (2013) Thinking about the emotional labour of nursing - supporting nurses to care. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 27 (1), 127 – 133.


Sawbridge, Y. and Hewison, A. (2012) Taking action on poor practice. Nursing Standard 26 (30), 62 – 63. http://rcnpublishing.com/doi/abs/10.7748/ns2012.

Hewison, A. and Sawbridge, Y. (2012) Nursing Leaders need backing and support to reclaim care. Nursing Times 108 (7), 7.


Sawbridge, Y. and Hewison, A. (2011) Time to care? Responding to concerns about poor nursing care. Health Services Management Centre Policy Paper 12. HSMC, University of Birmingham. ISBN 9780704428874.


Sawbridge, Y. (2010) Commissioning in the new NHS: how to get involved and influence service development. Nursing Times 106 (33): 10-12.


Sawbridge, Y. (2008) Protecting patient confidentiality: what nurses need to know. Independent Nurse, P 38.


Sawbridge, Y. (2007) Commissioning is a clinical activity. Health Service Journal, Clinical management section.

Sawbridge, Y. (2007) Getting to grips with practice based commissioning, Nursing Management, 14 (4): 14 - 15.

Sawbridge, Y. and Plumridge, N. (2007) Do we need to have senior nurses on NHS commissioning bodies? Nursing Times, 103 (2): 12.


Sawbridge, Y. (2006) On why PCTs need nurse leaders, Health Service Journal, 116 (6003): 33.

Older publications

Sawbridge, Y. (2005) Doctor's Responsibility for Nurses, Independent Nurse.

Sawbridge, Y. (2004) PCTs: the real advocates for change, British Journal of Health Care Management, 10 (11): 341-343.

Sawbridge, Y. (2002) Nurse directors should play a key role in modernisation. Primary Care Report, 4 (5): 46-47.

Sawbridge, Y. (2001) Import duties, Health Service Journal, 111 (5736): 20-21.