Presentation of the Unit’s growing array of research requires greater clarification for outside audiences – this may include the clinical areas that the Unit is currently covering and the problems that we are aiming to address. Clarification for management and staff within the Unit is also required in order to enable strategic decisions with regard to recruitment, investment and the decision (or not) to invest in new projects (workstream areas). This document proposes that the Unit maintains its focus, and indeed management structure, around our two programmes of research: Interventions, and Quality and Delivery of Care. These will act as the foundation for supporting a limited number of cross-cutting clinical themes. Within these themes, an explicit workstream approach will be adopted. This approach will enable us to highlight the clinical areas we are researching and the problems within those that we are seeking to address.
What is a 'workstream'?
A workstream is an explicit strategic plan (constructed and delivered in partnership with researchers, health professionals, policymakers and patients/public (in accordance with the Unit’s public involvement policy)) that clarifies the precise nature of a health or delivery related problem and outlines how a series of research studies and research related activities can contribute to removing, alleviating or ameliorating either the scale and/or severity of that problem. These strategic plans are not static but rather dynamic – undergoing constant revision in the light of emerging knowledge and changing contexts. A workstream will usually consist of a series of individual studies that sequentially make progress towards solving the identified problem (improvement and impact). However, some may require multiple studies running in parallel; where this is the case the workstream must make it explicit how these interlink in a strategic and coherent plan.
A workstream is problem focussed and solution/improvement oriented. At its heart is an issue that is regarded as problematic to patients, carers, the public, health professionals, healthcare managers, and policymakers – or all of these. While the problem may usually be a health/clinical or service delivery issue, in some instances it may be a methodological problem that requires addressing in order to contribute to wider health services research.
What are the aims of the 'workstream' approach?
- To increase the likelihood that research and research-related activity will lead to real-world improvements in health and the delivery of healthcare.
- To increase the efficiency of the research process thus enabling greater productivity levels of activity at the same time and cost.
- To reduce the time gap between one research project and the next, and thereby increase the likelihood that the time period between the inception of research and its impact on the NHS and people’s will be reduced.