Scottish Sepsis VTE

Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images Timescale: October 2012 – December 2014

Funder: Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Key points

  • The Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) sepsis VTE collaborative aims to reduce mortality through improving the reliability of delivery of evidence-based interventions related to sepsis and VTE across all hospitals in Scotland.
  • SAPPHIRE, in collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland and the University of Birmingham, was commissioned by Healthcare Improvement Scotland to evaluate the programme and identify the key elements for a successful collaborative.
  • The findings have been used to optimise the sepsis VTE Collaborative programme, and will be valuable in informing future patient safety programmes that use a collaborative approach.


The collaborative is an increasingly popular approach to improvement in healthcare. Collaboratives involve a community of practitioners from different sites using quality improvement methods to achieve improvement towards specific aims, supported by a core faculty comprising clinical and quality improvement experts. While there is some agreement about the benefits of a collaborative approach, there remains a lack of evidence about what are the most important factors for success in different contexts.

The research study

The study, led by Dr Carolyn Tarrant used a mix of interviews with programme leaders and local frontline staff, observations of events associated with the collaborative, and analysis of data from the programme website.

Rationale behind the evaluation

Collaboratives hold the potential to make a considerable contribution to the process of improvement work. The SPSP sepsis VTE collaborative ( provides a particularly interesting case study in that it targets two different areas of improvement (sepsis  and VTE) using the same improvement methodology and within the same or similar settings in participating sites. The evaluation will identify the key components of the collaborative and examine their effectiveness and sustainability with regard to the two projects.


“This study will help us understand how collaborative improvement programmes work in practice and how to make them better, from the points of view of those involved in delivering the programme as well as the staff who take part”
(Carolyn Tarrant)

The team has completed 300 hours of observations and 46 staff interviews across six participating hospital sites, and interviews with 19 improvement team members and 6 programme stakeholders (individuals with roles in the collaborative faculty, or in patient safety at a national level). The final report was submitted to Healthcare Improvement Scotland at the end of February 2015.


Research Team

Carolyn Tarrant - 2014Dr Graham MartinJanet Willars
Carolyn Tarrant  Graham Martin Janet Willars
Prof Julian BionBarbara O'donnell
Julian Bion
(University of Birmingham)

Barbara O’Donnell
(University of the West of Scotland)

Reports and publications

SEPSIS VTE evaluation short report

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