Health and social care

Medical devices, e-health, health informatics, patient services

Theme Overview

The health and social care theme at CHERISH-DE draws on our partners in the development of safer healthcare systems and testing of tools to analyse significant volumes of free text and narrative data. We have consulted with research users on the role of assistive technologies in health and social care, for example in terms of the application of technologies to enable digital inclusion for older people and those with dementias. There is also great interest in research aligned to interfaces and technologies for fast-paced, safety-critical dynamic environments. Previous EPSRC research shows that interactive systems have ubiquitous design problems that, when not identified and managed, lead to unnecessarily high error rates. Design definition to cover issues like these is a challenging problem the centre can address. These principles can be extended to safer social care, balancing the rights of vulnerable people with the risks around adult safeguarding. Our projects consider how older people are empowered through digital inclusion to fully engage in society. We want to explore how we can develop technologies that are acceptable and accessible to older people and their carers. The challenge is also to develop ways in which people’s voices can be incorporated into large, qualitative data sets, into meaningful and measurable qualitative social care data in particular. In the health and well-being context, Swansea has a long track record of applying data science and ‘big data’ methods. For twenty years, data science research at Swansea has been developing new methods to access, combine and use routinely collected data to support large scale studies, with the aim of realising the potential of electronically held, person-based information for conducting and supporting health related research. Research interests include reuse of personal private information gathered and shared by organisations and how to communicate the benefits of this approach to a wider public that is sceptical about the security of big data. Challenges addressed by this theme therefore explore how we can develop mechanisms that reassure and comfort publics in relation to sharing personal data, thereby overcoming privacy concerns to enable us to fully leverage the energy and potential of the open data world. This theme also supports proof of concept activity that will help ensure the safety and security of data (connecting with our Safety and Security theme). We recognise the existing challenge to develop analytical tools that can be used on significant volumes of free text and narrative data in context, with a focus on natural language programming and visualisation. Researchers will work with holders of large administrative datasets in the public and private sector to develop next generation methods of working with complex, multifaceted datasets.

Theme Leads

Harold Thimbleby


Harold Thimbleby

Prof. Harold Thimbleby has attracted c£12M research funding to date. He has been Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder and Leverhulme Senior Research Fellow. His work in healthcare safety was highlighted in RCUK’s “Big Ideas for the Future” (2011, p33) and gained him honorary fellowships of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and RCP Edinburgh. He is Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Fellow of the Institute of Engineering Technology. His team won the GE Healthcare Award for Outstanding Impact in Health and Wellbeing, (Swansea University, 2014). He was PI on Swansea’s Bridging the Gaps programme.

David Ford


David Ford

David Ford is Director of the £8M ESRC-funded Administrative Data Research Centre Wales; Deputy Director of the £9.3M Centre for Improvement in Population Health through E-records Research, part of the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, and Director of the eHealth Industries Innovation Centre. He is University Director of NHS Wales Informatics Research Laboratories and Director of the SAIL Databank (www.saildatabank.com ), an international data sharing facility with 9 billion linked anonymised records supporting £70M of funded projects, with 300+ users. Ford is Director designate of the International Population Data Linkage Network.

Judith Phillips


Judith Phillips

Prof. Judith Phillips is Director of Swansea’s Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences, and directs the Older People and Ageing Research and Development Network in Wales. She is interested in the social, behavioural and environmental aspects of ageing. Her work is applied with extensive links to policy and practice, e.g. with Welsh Government and local authority social services. She was Co-I on Swansea’s Bridging the Gaps project, has secured £20M+ in funding from RCUK, EU and Welsh Government, and leads the Swansea arm of the ESRC all-Wales DTC.