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Our research academy

The ASR has a strong track record in providing training and career development opportunities to individuals. This includes teaching sessions at the University of Leeds, supervision and mentoring provision, support in pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship applications, and offering research internship opportunities for clinical colleagues.

Professor Anne Forster is an NIHR Training Advocate, an ambassador for clinical led research and clinical academic careers. Through this role she has promoted NIHR training and career development opportunities, and supported clinicians in developing their own research career.

Find out more about our PhD researchers

Ms Alison Ellwood

PhD status: On-going
PhD title: Working with people living with coexistent physical frailty and cognitive impairment

Study Overview: Frailty may be classed as a biological syndrome, distinct from, yet associated with ageing. Individuals with coexistent physical frailty and cognitive impairment may be at increased risk of dependency and poor outcomes. Multidimensional models of frailty emphasise the interplay of biopsychosocial factors in contributing to frailty status and related adverse outcomes. Psychosocial factors feature less in research and are not prioritised, although appear to influence wellbeing and quality of life. Further exploration is required to understand the experiences of those living with coexistent physical frailty and cognitive impairment, and the extent to which psychosocial factors may impact on their capacity to live well in later life.

More details

In an ageing population the prevalence of age-related decline has proven problematic for medicine and society. Both nationally and internationally the response to this has been to increasingly promote healthy ageing. However, some functional decline in later life appears inevitable for many. Over the past 20 years there has been a growing interest in frailty as a biological syndrome. Frail individuals experience reduced resilience and reserve leading to increased vulnerability to stressor events. Evidence suggests individuals with co-existent physical frailty and cognitive impairment experience more severe adverse health outcomes than those with physical frailty alone.
Defining and measuring frailty has proven complex. Primarily research has a biological focus, however researchers are increasingly moving towards a more multi-dimensional model of frailty. This approach seeks to consider the complex interplay of biological, psychological and social components which contribute to frailty status and the adverse outcomes individuals experience. Vulnerability to stressor events and anticipated reduced capacity to return to previous function may be more evident in individuals with cognitive impairments.
The potential impact of psychosocial factors on the vulnerability of individuals living with coexistent physical frailty and cognitive impairment has not been a primary focus of exploration. Whilst the relationship of such factors on frailty is likely to be bi-directional and complex, emerging research suggests psychosocial factors may have an effect on quality of life for individuals, as well as healthcare resource and social care use. Further investigation is required to establish what factors might predispose individuals to a higher level of dependency, decreased wellbeing and poor quality of life; and how these can be mediated against.

Aims and Objectives
This PhD is aiming to understand more of the experiences of people with coexistent physical frailty and cognitive impairment. An improved awareness of the potential impact of psychosocial factors on the specific current, and anticipated future, needs of these people to promote healthier ageing and improve quality of life is sought.

Academic Supervisors:
Professor Gail Mountain
Dr. Catherine Quinn
Dr. Elizabeth Teale

Funding: University of Bradford, Supported by NIHR Applied Research Collaborations Yorkshire and Humber

Mr Ragy Tadrous

PhD status: On-going
PhD title: Development and testing of a prioritised intervention to build resilience and independence for older people living with frailty

Study Overview: This project aims to optimise an intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour in community-dwelling older adults.

More details

Sedentary behaviour is defined as “any waking behaviour characterized by an energy expenditure ≤1.5 METs while in a sitting or reclining posture”. Sedentary behaviour has been shown to correlate with deleterious health outcomes such as poor self-reported health decreased physical function, greater difficulty with activities of daily living and less successful ageing. Older adults are the most sedentary group in society, with approximately two-thirds of this cohort spending more than 8.5 hours per day sedentary.

The overall aim of this project is to optimise an intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour in community dwelling older adults. This will be accomplished through various research methodologies including a mixed-methods systematic review, a qualitative exploration of the perceptions of older adults towards interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and a feasibility trial to pilot the optimised intervention.

Aims and Objectives:
This project aims to optimise an intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour in community-dwelling older adults.

Academic Supervisors:
Professor Andrew Clegg
Professor Anne Forster
Professor Amanda Farrin
Dr Peter Coventry


Ms Louisa-Jane Burton

PhD status: On-going
PhD title: Talking about recovery after stroke: How do we do it, and how can we do better?

Study Overview: Patients and their relatives describe dissatisfaction with information about recovery outlook following stroke, including how much recovery might take place and when it might be expected. These issues often arise during rehabilitation, but research suggests that stroke unit staff lack the confidence and skills to discuss recovery and may avoid doing so. However, information about recovery is important for stroke survivors and their families, because it helps them make decisions about their life after stroke and future care. Louisa-Jane’s research aims to develop an intervention involving strategies for staff to help them to discuss recovery with stroke survivors and families in a way that meets their needs.

More details

Aims and Objectives
The aim of the Louisa-Jane’s research is to develop an intervention to enable multidisciplinary team members (including therapists, nurses and doctors) to discuss recovery in a format that meets the needs of stroke survivors and their families, and is feasible to deliver in clinical practice.  The project will involve two systematic reviews to identify what can be learned from other neurological conditions; the first will identify strategies to discuss recovery in neurological conditions, and their effectiveness; the second systematic review will explore stroke survivors’, caregivers’ and healthcare professionals’ views relating to discussing recovery and prognosis in acquired neurological conditions.  A qualitative study will explore current practice in two stroke units, using observations and interviews to understand the views and experiences of stroke survivors, their caregivers and staff.  The information collected from the systematic reviews and qualitative study will be summarised and presented to groups of former patients, caregivers and stroke staff.  In these groups, stroke survivors, caregivers and staff will be facilitated to work together using coproduction methods, to develop an intervention designed to support staff to engage more effectively in discussions about recovery.  The intervention may include guidance on how to identify how much information about recovery the stroke survivor and their family may wish to receive, the timing of information provision, and how to frame conversations.  Overall, the project will develop an evidence-based and patient-informed intervention to guide staff to discuss recovery effectively.  Louisa-Jane is supervised at the University of Leeds by Dr David Clarke, Dr Tom Crocker and Prof Anne Forster from the Academic Unit of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation, and Dr Judith Johnson from the School of Psychology.

Academic Supervisors: 
Dr David Clarke
Dr Judith Johnson
Dr Tom Crocker
Prof Anne Forster

Funding: This study is funded by The Stroke Association’s Postgraduate Fellowship Scheme (ref:  TSA PGF 2017-02).  September 2017- March 2021.

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