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Research project: Magnet4Europe: Improving Mental Health & Wellbeing of Health Professionals

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The University of Southampton is involved in the largest ever project to improve hospital work environments, with an award of 4 million Euros from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The grant will support the international partnership with some of the world’s leading universities and is being led by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Burnout, anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression are far too common among health care workers. Patient safety depends upon vigilance, quick thinking, and attention to detail by health professionals; this is made more difficult by stressful work settings.

“Nurses in the UK have one of the highest levels of burnout in any country in Europe” said Prof Jane Ball, the UK study lead. “It’s high time we took a long hard look at how we organise the delivery of health care in the NHS, and find ways of reducing stress and improving staff wellbeing.”

“Hospitalized patients can only be assured safe and effective care when their nurses and physicians are able to perform at their best,” says Linda Aiken, PhD, Professor and Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, and co-lead on Magnet4Europe, “and this requires healthy work environments.”

Studies have shown that Magnet-recognised hospitals in the US have lower health professional burnout and safer patient care. There are currently 502 Magnet Recognized hospitals in 8 countries, with most located in the US. Only one hospital in Europe has achieved Magnet recognition.

This initiative will test the feasibility and sustainability of the Magnet Model® for organizational redesign in the context of health care in Europe.

“It’s fantastic that with this study we have the chance to work with hospitals to explore the difference that a Magnet model might make – to both staff and patients” said Prof Jackie Bridges.

Sixty hospitals in five European countries (Belgium, England, Germany, Ireland, and Sweden) will be supported - by one to one twinning with an experienced Magnet recognized hospital and an annual learning collaborative - to redesign their ways of working, staffing, and systems.

Magnet4Europe uses a mixed method design to determine direct and indirect individual and collective health outcomes and cost effectiveness; it will examine what impact redesigning clinical work environments so that they promote mental health has on staff mental health, sickness absence, and productivity.  


University of Southampton research team:

Prof Jane E Ball (Principal Investigator), Prof Jackie Bridges, Prof Peter Griffiths, Dr Tom West, Sydney Anstee (Senior Researcher)

More information:

If you are a Director of Nursing of a general acute NHS hospital interested in participating, you can find more information here. To request to take part, please email Sydney Anstee.


  • UK: University of Southampton; King's College London; London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Ireland: University College Cork; National University of Ireland
  • Belgium: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; Meplis NV; Universitair Ziekenhuis Antwerpen
  • Germany: Technische Universitat Berlin
  • Sweden: Karolinska Institutet


Study Directors

  • Prof Walter Sermeus (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium),
  • Prof Linda Aiken (University of Pennsylvania, USA)



Horizon 2020 (H2020-SC1-BHC-2018-2020)
‘Better Health and care, economic growth and sustainable health systems’


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