Values Based Recruitment: What works for whom, why, and in what circumstances?



Our research addresses the question: How have education and service providers implemented VBR approaches and what are the impacts on service delivery and care? To answer this question we have four aims:

  • to better understand and conceptualise VBR in the context of healthcare education and service delivery in order to unpack what works, for whom and why;
  • to identify the ‘active’ components of models of VBR, to typologise the variety of VBR models that exist according to their constituent parts;
  • to understand the longitudinal impacts of VBR for HEIs and trainee healthcare professionals recruited through the ‘first cycle’ of VBR; and
  • to propose successful models of VBR to inform education, practice and policy.


A realistic evaluation using mixed methods. A four-stage, theory-driven, evaluative, approach, will unpack the relationships between context (C), mechanisms (M) and outcomes (O) and answer ‘what works, for whom, how, and in what circumstances’.

Stage 1 (months 1 to 6) will generate a ‘working’ theory of VBR through: (i) policy document analysis; (ii) rapid review of VBR literature; (iii) interviews with national stakeholders to explore intended advantages and disadvantages, contextual influences, mechanisms and processes by which outcomes are intended to be achieved, and how VBR differs from previous recruitment models; and (iv) use a ‘virtual panel’ to increase engagement, successful dissemination and NHS utility.

Stage 2 (months 7 to 20) will test this theory using four, purposively selected, case studies (2 higher education and 2 NHS sites) focusing on: (i) comparison of case site documents against stage 1’s conjectured theory - ‘CMOs’ will be tested and refined sequentially within, and finally across, cases; (ii) time series scrutiny of ‘organisational health and performance’ measures; (iii) ‘cost consequence analysis’ of VBR; (iv) interviews and focus groups with stakeholders to explore perceived challenges, opportunities and impacts of VBR.

Stage 3 (months 21 to 24) will present a cross-case analysis of costs and consequences present theory and evidence based models of successful VBR.

Stage 4 (months 30, 42 and 54) will evaluate the impact of VBR over time in the HEI case sites to track students at the end of year one, two and upon completion (months 30, 42 and 54). We will conduct interviews in the case sites to follow up with participants who engaged with Stage 2 and gather data to consider performance and costs. We will conduct a national survey of HEIs (or explore use of HEE data) to explore implementation and perceptions of impact.


The National Health Service (NHS) employs over a million people and it is important to ensure the ‘right’ people are recruited to NHS caring positions and to the educational programmes that train them in universities.  Values-based recruitment (VBR) is an approach being used in the expectation that it will align the values and behaviours of NHS staff and students with the values of the NHS and expectation of the public.

VBR assumes that recruiting for values and behaviours, and then maintaining and encouraging these, will improve the quality of healthcare provision. Whilst intuitively appealing, there is no evidence to support this assumption. This research study aims to evaluate the effects of VBR, in particular to explore its implementation, how people respond, what is working well and what lessons can be learned.


Principal Investigator:
Professor Karen Spilsbury, University of Leeds 

Professor Carl Thompson, University of Leeds
Professor Karen Bloor, University of York
Dorothy McCaughan, University of York
Professor Angela Simpson, University of York
Professor Russell Mannion, University of Birmingham
Liz Newbronner, Firefly Research 

Additional team members:
Dr Kate Farley, University of Leeds
Liz Newbronner, Firefly Research
Dr Cath Jackson, Valid Research

Funding body: Department of Health, Policy Research Programme (£404,423)

Contact: Professor Karen Spilsbury, University of Leeds