What is the Scottish Improvement Science Collaborating Centre (SISCC)?

The Scottish Improvement Science Collaborating Centre (SISCC) is a group of researchers, educators, practitioners and user advocates based in different universities and health and social care and third sector organisations across Scotland. SISCC is led and advised by a range of professionals, policymakers, academics educators and advocates from health and social care including the NHS Scotland, social care agencies, Scottish government, and the voluntary third sector.

SISCC’s purpose is to support research evidence being used in practice to improve health and social care services. As well as generating, gathering and sharing evidence, the team is exploring what we know about how to improve health and care practice. Sometimes we know that a process or approach can improve patient health and care, but putting that knowledge into action can be difficult. Understanding the best ways to change care practice helps everyone to make it happen. We focus particularly on ways of informing large-scale, sustainable change.

Tell me more about improvement science.

Improvement science is about trying to understand how positive changes are made and sustained within organisations and by individuals, and how to remove ineffective or harmful practices. Improvement scientists unpick the reasons why certain practices and/or cultures do or do not work to improve outcomes for health and social care. Using this understanding, practices can be spread and adapted to suit different settings.

Changes might include ways in which information about patients with a particular illness are shared in a GP practice so that they get the right care, or the way in which new services are promoted to people in a local area to ensure everyone knows about and has access to those services. It might also include how premature babies are cared for in hospital, or how medicine is prescribed for older people with multiple long-term conditions.

Improvement science is not limited to thinking about processes and procedures. It can include thinking about the relationships between health and social care professionals and the patients, carers and service users they’re working with and supporting.

What about caring and equity?

Care and compassion and finding ways to reduce health inequalities are an important part of our work.

We know that how care is offered is really important to everybody’s health and wellbeing. There is evidence that a lack of a caring and compassionate approach underlies many problems in health and social care, and it is important find ways of making sure that people are cared for properly. Finding ways to meet everyone’s needs – particularly people who are more vulnerable and may have difficulty accessing or using health and social care services is the basis of person-centred care, which is one way of describing a caring and compassionate approach, which can help to reduce health inequalities and improve health and wellbeing.

We want to find, collate and disseminate the evidence to help services to become more person-centred, caring and compassionate. We want to find out how services can be as safe and reliable as possible, and ensure everyone can access the health and social care they need. That way, the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland will be improved.

What about the public and patients? Do they get a say?

Of course – this is central to the way we work. We have a number of Advisory Groups which include representation from a wide range of people, including organisations representing the views and experiences of people who use services and their carers, non-health and social care professionals. Ensuring that we include a diverse range of experience in our evidence gathering and assessment is important to every aspect of our work. We do not promote a “one-size-fits-all” method, approach or framework and we are not using one method alone. Co-creation is at the heart of our work.

Don’t NHS and social care agencies do this already? Why do we need SISCC?

We’re not replacing agencies that already gather and assess evidence to inform care practice. We’re working with them, and we’re adding value by focusing on the evidence for how putting research into practice works in a Scottish context, both locally and across the whole of Scotland by working in partnership with agencies with similar aims.

Many of the improvements and changes that are made in NHS and social care services are done on a small scale in local areas. Although this might improve care in one area, we don’t often know if and how the same improvements can be made in other areas.

We want to help different services learn from one another and use strong research evidence so that we can make lasting improvements across health and social care.

We are examining evidence internationally as well as locally, but our focus is on the best ways of ensuring improvements across Scotland in ways that help to support improved outcomes for health and wellbeing.

Health and social care are huge areas – what are your priorities?

We’re open to exploring a range of areas but our initial focus is on older people and maternal and child health. We are focusing on physical activity for older people, how prescribing multiple medicines for older people with complex needs is managed and care in neonatal units for babies in neonatal units and their families.

Within our Research Theme groups we are working to gather and assess research in topics such as workforce development and behaviour change which informs all the work undertaken by SISCC./td>

We undertake specific projects that will inform all our work. For example, we are examining how large-scale change might happen by delivering online distance learning to large numbers of individuals, and how data can be better managed and investigated to inform decision making.

The key aims for all our work are to improve safety and reliability of care, increase care and compassion, reduce the impact of inequalities and improve health and wellbeing.

Tell me more about the research themes.

The work within the research themes informs the work undertaken within our projects. There are currently five over-arching research themes:

  • Improvement science methods – we are examining, adapting and developing methods for understanding how to design and evaluate improvement methodologies, frameworks and measures to assess the quality and safety of care.
  • Context and evaluation – we are exploring how different services, organisational structures, cultures, social circumstances, individual situations and personalities and so on influence practice. What works in one setting might not work in another, and we need to understand why and how this happens.
  • Behaviour change – we are exploring how to facilitate behaviour change among patients, carers, the public, and multi-professional groups.
    Workforce capacity and capability for improvement – we are developing learning opportunities to enable health and care professionals to make changes and improvements that work and last.
  • Sustainability and spread – we are learning from other successful improvements in health and care to understand out how to make changes that last and work across different contexts.
  • Knowledge management, eHealth and health informatics – we are using and developing ways of gathering information about people and services in a way that does not impact negatively on health professionals’ interactions with patients/service users and we are doing this in an ethical way.

For more information please see our programme of work

What’s important to SISCC?

We want to improve services by making changes on a Scotland-wide scale. We cannot do this alone and we know how important it is to work with others and listen to the needs of people using and delivering services.

We promise to:

  • Work with people from different professions and settings so that all of our work is relevant and informed.
  • Make sure that we listen to and respect the opinions of lay people.
  • Build on existing strength (ours and others) and learn from people already doing good work in the field.
  • Evaluate and monitor our progress based on evidence to make sure that we are on the right track.
  • Share our knowledge widely and build capacity through education.


We hope you find the information you’re looking for on our webpages. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch or tweet us if you’d like to find out more or if you have suggestions for ways in which we might work together in future.