Article Text

Use of complexity theory in health and social care: a scoping review protocol
  1. Aine Carroll1,2,
  2. Diarmuid Stokes3,
  3. Andrew Darley1
  1. 1School of Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Medical Department, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3UCD Library, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Aine Carroll; aine.carroll{at}


Introduction Despite the use of a wide variety of improvement tools and approaches, healthcare organisations continue to struggle in several key areas. Complexity-informed approaches have the potential to offer health and social care a new paradigm for understanding, designing, implementing and evaluating solutions, yet so far has failed to gain the traction anticipated some years ago. There is a growing need for high quality syntheses of the existing knowledge base in this area and given the diversity of theory and approaches, a scoping review is the best approach to curate this knowledge.

Methods A scoping review of relevant literature from January 2000 to present, using the refined Arksey and O’Malley six-stage framework will be conducted. This protocol will follow the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis Protocols Extension for Scoping Reviews. A three-step search strategy will be used. An initial search of databases will be undertaken to identify key search terms followed by an analysis of retrieved papers title and abstract text words, and of index terms used to describe the articles. A second search using all identified keywords and index terms will then be undertaken across all included databases. Third, the reference lists of identified reports and articles will be searched. Authors of primary articles will be contacted and a search for grey material performed. Finally, a complete search strategy of one major database will be included.

Ethics and dissemination As this is a scoping review, ethical approval is not required. The results of the scoping review will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at national and international conferences and will guide a large research project investigating teamwork. All data will be stored in accordance with best General Data Protection Regulation practice.

Registration This scoping review protocol has been registered with Open Science Framework.

  • quality in health care
  • organisational development
  • change management

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  • Contributors AC came up with the original concept for the review and wrote the original draft protocol. AD and DS made substantial contributions to the search strategy and design and writing of subsequent versions and both revised the first draft critically for important intellectual content. All three authors approved the final version for submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.