Knowledge Mobilisation, Public and Community Involvement



Lead: Sally Sheard (University of Liverpool)

Social science research is focussing on the well-being of healthcare workers and the general public; understanding how individuals, communities and health care systems perceive risk; developing effective communication strategies for public and policy understanding of disease transmission and prevention; supporting the development of resilient populations and wider socio-economic systems.

Ongoing projects

Understanding the dynamics of policy development and healthcare worker behaviour in the UK during the COVID-19 public health emergency

In an infectious disease outbreak public health policymakers are under tremendous pressure, especially from the media. They must respond rapidly to and take decisions which impact enormously on healthcare provision.

Prof Sally Sheard and colleagues are studying conventional and social media trends during the COVID-19 epidemic, and are linking these to changes in UK policy, gaining unique insights through collaboration with key policy players. These include members of the Strategic Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) that advises the Government, and Public Health England leaders. These experts are recording information on key meetings and events, and giving regular interviews in which their perspectives can be captured in real-time.

Sheard's team also examines the impact of the policy changes on healthcare workers in general practice and hospitals, through interviews and observations. Healthcare workers' perspective on delivering care during the epidemic, and how they perceive the changes in policy is fed back to policymakers during the outbreak. The approach is novel because policy decisions are usually only studied after an event, making the findings less reliable.

This research was piloted with pump-prime funding from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at Liverpool, and has been scaled up with support from the Medical Research Council.

The COVID Hot Potato 9 

This week the hottest ‘hot potato’ is the open letter in the British Medical Journal from the Presidents of Royal Colleges calling for a rapid review of preparations for a second wave of COVID-19, and a focus on areas of weakness where action is needed to prevent further loss of life 

The COVID Hot Potato 8

This week: As the UK COVID-19 response transitions from crisis management to a longer-term strategy, we look at evidence submitted to the Select Committee inquiry by Prof Sally Sheard. This draws on analyses of previous epidemics to evaluate the utility of a public inquiry after COVID-19, and highlights the need for reform to ensure that inquiry recommendations are implemented.

The COVID Hot Potato 7

This week: Healthcare professionals in hospital and community settings are putting plans in place for how to take the next steps in the COVID-19 response, but a lack of communication about the length of time ‘emergency’ response measures will be in place contributes to exhaustion and difficulties implementing these plans.   

The COVID Hot Potato 6

This week: Healthcare professionals question why the evidence that shapes clinical guidance is not routinely shared with them. They highlight the challenge of adapting to frequent changes, express worries regarding the lack of transparency about the drivers behind high-level decision-making, and want to be better informed.

The COVID Hot Potato 5

This week: General practitioners (GPs) describe the challenge of managing patient referrals to hospital services after the initial suspension of non-urgent and routine referrals during the peak of COVID-19. Despite NHS England guidance advising that referrals should resume, ongoing difficulties and inability to refer patients has produced extra work, and challenges in identifying who is responsible for patients’ care.

The COVID Hot Potato 4

This week: Healthcare professionals reflect on health system resilience, with those in Scotland talking about how relationship-building within and between community and hospital teams has been important in responding well to COVID-19.

The COVID Hot Potato 3

This week: Staff report anxiety and frustration that communication channels are often not effective. GPs, hospital doctors, and nurses have experienced this in different ways.

The COVID Hot Potato 2

As COVID-19 comes under control we need to share how local NHS services have adapted to cope with demand to “build back better” services for wave 2. 

Emerging issue: Finding agile ways of sharing and implementing the best COVID-19 health service innovations around the UK.

The COVID Hot Potato

Patients with non-COVID illnesses are suffering: healthcare professionals report the hospital capacy exists, but we need the strategy now.

Emerging issue: Hospitals need a government lead on the lockdown exit strategy to plan the right mix of services as health needs change following the COVID-19 ‘peak’.