• Handwash sign
  • Handwash gel
  • Operating theatre
  • Hospital bed
  • Hospital trolley
  • Emergency equipment

The SAPPHIRE (Social science APPlied to Healthcare Improvement REsearch) Group uses social science theory and qualitative methods to provide a sound evidence base of practical, actionable learning that contributes to healthcare improvement. Dr Carolyn Tarrant leads the research team, which is drawn predominantly from social science backgrounds, but with clinical members too. SAPPHIRE’s 20-plus members work with collaborators across a range of clinical areas, from diabetes to sepsis to emergency care. SAPPHIRE uses data gathered from literature reviews, document analysis, interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic observations to produce a fuller, more rounded understanding of some of the challenges in delivering high quality healthcare and how these may be tackled. SAPPHIRE has particular expertise in the use of ethnography for healthcare improvement research, and is committed to using learning from healthcare improvement research to advance social science theory.

Twitter logo
Follow us on twitter: @socscihealth

Blog logo
Read our blog
: http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/sapphire/

SAPPHIRE researchers currently hold, or have recently held, positions on influential national committees and funding panels including various NIHR funding streams, Wellbeing of Women, the Stroke Association, the Health Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council. Two associate editors of BMJ Quality and Safety are based in SAPPHIRE and group members are also involved in the editorial boards of Pilot and Feasibility Studies, Family Practice, Journal of Surgical Simulation,  and Journal of Hospital Infection. Its members belong to a range of formal networks (such as the Health Foundation’s Q initiative) as well as more informal networks of contacts built up over years of engagement with policy and practice communities. The group also hosts international fellows and other visitors.

Impact and engagement

We reach beyond the research community to forge alliances with managers and practitioners in the NHS; policymakers and decision-makers throughout health systems worldwide; professional societies, royal colleges, charities, patients and the public; and international bodies and non-governmental organisations. SAPPHIRE converts research findings into clear, practical messages communicated in easily accessible formats such as learning reports and explores questions of academic and general interest via social media and online videos.

Read more about the real-world impact of SAPPHIRE’s research

Read more about SAPPHIRE's engagement and dissemination


SAPPHIRE has particular expertise in the use of ethnography for healthcare improvement research, and particularly in large scale team ethnography. We have published on ethnographic methods, hold regular seminars, and are organising an Ethnography Summer School for July 2019 (further details can be obtained from Liz Shaw es213@le.ac.uk).

Papers and publications

Events and seminars

Caroline Cupit organised a series of seminars around ethnography, which were funded by the University of Leicester's Researcher Development Awards:

  • Situated Interviewing: combining the best of ethnographic insights with the practical benefits of interviews - Nicola Gale
  • Institutional Ethnography: a 'different' approach - Janet Rankin
  • Behind the scenes: using ethnographic approaches to study polypharmacy in primary care - Deborah Swinglehurst


Share this page: