Una Cunningham
Head of Transformation and Chair of the Health and Social Care Directorate at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.
Current WorkHead of Transformation and Chair of the Health and Social Care Directorate at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.


Una has a dual role in the as Head of Transformation and Chair of the Health and Social Care Directorate at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

As Clinical Directorate Lead for Health and Social Care Professions, she has responsibility for the strategic development of the health and social care professions within the hospital. This group includes Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech & Language Therapy, Medical Social Work, Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Psychology, Audiology and Podiatry. Una’s background is in Speech and Language Therapy and as both Speech and Language Therapy Manager at the Mater hospital for over a decade (1999- 2011) and Chair of the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapy Managers Group.

In her role as Head of Transformation, Una is responsible for overseeing change management at the hospital including the on-going work of the Mater Lean Academy in association with UCD Health Systems and the Innovation and Team Development functions at the MMUH. Una is skilled in lean and 6-sigma process improvement methodologies and is also a licensed SHINGO Institute Affiliate.

Una has previously held the role of Clinical Care Programmes Manager at the Mater Hospital from 2011 to 2013. It was during this period that she became interested in transformational change, organisational development undertaking a number of academic courses in the area including the Breakthrough Series on Collaborative Methodology at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Harvard Square, USA.

Una was the National Stroke Programme Lead for Early Supported Discharge between 2011 and October 2018 and lead on development of this service at 5 sites nationally.

Una is currently a PhD candidate with UCD Health Systems and is a member of the Co-Lead research team. (www.ucd.ie/collectiveleadership/)

Recent publications

  • Cunningham U, Brún AD, McAuliffe E. Application of the critical incident technique in refining an initial programme theory. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2020 Dec;20:1-6.
  • Cunningham U, De Brún A, McAuliffe E. Understanding what makes team interventions work: Learning from healthcare professionals. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2019 Aug 8;19(4).
  • Cunningham, U., Ward, M.E., De Brún, A. and McAuliffe, E., 2018. Team interventions in acute hospital contexts: a systematic search of the literature using realist synthesis. BMC health services research, 18(1), p.536.
  • McAuliffe, E., De Brún, A., Ward, M., O’Shea, M., Cunningham, U., O’Donovan, R., McGinley, S., Fitzsimons, J., Corrigan, S. and McDonald, N., 2017. Collective leadership and safety cultures (Co- Lead): Protocol for a mixed-methods pilot evaluation of the impact of a co-designed collective leadership intervention on team performance and safety culture in a hospital group in Ireland. BMJ open, 7(11), p.e017569.

Presentations over past 5years

  • Poster presentation EAWHOP- (UCD) “Understanding the factors that enable Irish healthcare teams to work effectively: A realist approach - Stage 1 Building Programme Theory”-May 19th, 2016
  • Oral presentation European Health Management Association (EHMA) Annual Conference, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy from 13th-15th June 2017 “Challenging Cultures to Improve Quality and Safety”
  • Oral presentation to King’s Fund, London: “Collective leadership in Healthcare teams”, November 2 nd , 2016
  • Oral presentation to Dublin Realist Support Group; March 16th, 2017; Realist Researcher Group “Multi-disciplinary Healthcare Team Effectiveness”
  • Oral Presentations; Graduate Research Seminars, SNMHS, UCD 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019
  • Oral Presentation; “Team Interventions”, Realist methodology Workshop, SNMHS, UCD, February 26th, 2016
  • Oral Presentation, “Team Interventions in Acute Hospital Contexts”; Transfer panel assessment, October 15th 2017; SNMHS
  • Oral Presentation, Mater Lean Academy, 5th Annual Lean Symposium, November, 2017; “The Importance of Context for Team Interventions”
  • Oral Contribution; HRB Interim Review Report for Co-Lead programme, Feb 20th; 2018
  • Oral presentation to Realist Support Group; Jan 16th, 2018; “Team Interventions-A systematic review of the literature using realist synthesis” Poster presentation; SNMHS- April 18th, 2018; Team Interventions; A Systematic Search of the Literature using Realist Synthesis; SNMHS UCD; PhD Candidate Competition
  • Oral presentation, NHS Site Visit, London, June 11th , 2018 “Team Interventions in an acute hospital context- What works for whom, in what conditions, why, to what extent and how?”
  • Oral presentation, UCD Health Systems Showcase Event, October 24th, 2018 “Team interventions in acute hospital contexts- Building Programme Theory”
  • Oral Presentation; Dublin Realist Support Group; “Building Programme Theory”, Nov 6th, 2018
  • Oral Presentation- SNMHS Research Seminar Series, March 9th 2019 “Team Interventions in Acute Hospital Contexts- A Realist Methods approach”
  • Oral presentation Co Lead Advisory (Expert Group) Panel, March 27th 2019: “Multi-disciplinary team Interventions in Acute Hospital Contexts- What works for whom in what conditions, why to what extent and how”?
  • Oral poster presentation, Integrated care conference; San Sebastian, April 2019; “Learning from healthcare professionals to improve team interventions for more integrated care in acute hospital contexts”
  • Oral presentation- ISQUA conference. Capetown, October, 23rd 2019- “Improving the design and implementation of team interventions in acute contexts to enhance quality and safety: Development of a Realist Programme Theory”
  • Oral presentation- 7th Annual Lean Symposium, University College Dublin, November 28th, 2020- “Team Interventions in Acute Hospital Contexts” Abstract accepted as 30 minute oral presentation for Realist 2020 conference, Dublin March 24th- 26th- “What makes team interventions work in acute hospital contexts? A case study to test initial programme theory” (Postponed due to Covid pandemic)
  • Abstract submitted- ISQUA, Florence, 2021: Capitalising on cultural phenomena like FOMO in implementation of interventions to improve patient safety – (Postponed due to Covid pandemic)