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Hughes Hall Research Associate Dr Jan van der Scheer wins Vice-Chancellor’s Award 2021

The University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Early Career Researcher was awarded to Dr Jan van der Scheer this year for his work to support the management of maternity emergencies during COVID-19.

THIS Institute’s project, COVID-19: managing an obstetric emergency, conducted in collaboration with the PROMPT Maternity Foundation, brought together over 100 maternity unit staff, human factors specialists, and infection control experts to understand ‘what good looks like’ for managing obstetric emergencies in women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Jan and his colleagues at THIS Institute, together with stakeholder organisations, developed a new approach to bringing people together to co-design solutions collaboratively, remotely, and at scale. Thiscovery, THIS Institute’s innovative online research and development platform, was used in an exciting, fast-paced project to co-design COVID adaptations to a common clinical process – managing an obstetric emergency. Using large-scale collaborative approaches like these enables the inclusion of perspectives and expertise not always available locally across the NHS, and can help reduce the waste and de-standardisation with each NHS unit having to come up with its own solution.

Jan highlighted the efforts of the many project contributors: “The work behind this award has been such a team effort, in particular of our many collaborators and my THIS Institute colleagues. It’s fantastic to see our work being recognised in this way. It’s also a great acknowledgement of the importance of finding ways to rapidly mobilise the expertise and ingenuity of people – patients, staff and other stakeholders – who use or work in healthcare systems.”

Participants started by making recommendations for improving processes they saw illustrated in a short video on Thiscovery, and then to rate each other’s recommendations in a consensus-building exercise.  In the end, consensus was reached on 16 recommendations. Supported by external visual agencies and stakeholders, a new video, infographic and information sheet reflecting the consensus-built solution were produced, which are all freely available here. The video has already been viewed over 20,000 times and has been most useful for NHS staff urgently seeking online resources and training for COVID scenarios.

For a great overview of this work see a blog from Jan (500 words, 3 to 5 min read). And see the infographic of the Five key goals in managing an obstetric emergency.

The judges praised Jan and the team for: “Really rapid identification of the problem, consensus building and reflective practice with a wide range of practitioners resulting in shared learning, improved practice and better outcomes for patients. A really great example of how we should do healthcare research.”

Jan concluded: “The strength and impact of the outputs of the project, the positive feedback of participants, and the codification of the approach into a formal methodology all give confidence that the online consensus-building approach we developed can now be used many times over to improve or adapt processes in healthcare. This means that the impact of the work can reach far beyond the specifics of this particular project. I hope our work continues to make a difference and I can’t wait to further contribute to this type of research as a Hughes Hall and THIS Institute member in the future!”

This project was supported by the PROMPT Maternity Foundation, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives, the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association, Each Baby Counts, and the Infection Prevention Society.

Further information

Find out more about the other two winners, and runners up, here: https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/vice-chancellors-awards-2021.

The awards, now in their sixth year, are run by the University of Cambridge Public Engagement team and Research Strategy Office and are awarded in three categories: Early Career Researcher, Established Academic and the Collaboration Award. For more information, see https://www.cam.ac.uk/public-engagement/information-for-staff-and-students/vice-chancellors-awards.

An associated research publication can be found here: https://bmcmedresmethodol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12874-021-01288-9