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Co-design of community pharmacy-supported group consultations for the prevention and management of long-term conditions (IDRT23/HLS/IHSC/STURROCK)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Andrew Sturrock, Dr Nicki O'Brien  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The NHS is in crisis with >7 million people awaiting NHS treatment in October 2022: the biggest waiting lists on record. The NHS Long Term Plan proposed several actions to improve integrated care delivery: focusing on prevention, reducing health inequalities and long-term health conditions (LTC) self-management. This vision to move from reactive care to active population health management included plans using community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to better engage patients.

Community pharmacies are accessible sources of health advice and treatment, embedded within the community, providing over 1.2 million consultations weekly in England. They provide care for minor ailments and LTCs, and support public health and vaccination services.

Group consultations are a novel service delivery approach that can improve care and patient self-management. They are one of few models meeting the patient-codesigned quintuple aim of healthcare: good outcomes, high patient/clinician satisfaction and education, plus low-cost. Group consultations contrast with 1:1 appointments, whereby groups of ~8-15 patients share longer appointments (~60-90 minutes) either face-to-face, virtual or hybrid. They support social and mental determinants of wellbeing, through peer support, and facilitate health behaviour changes addressing common risk factors. Across the NHS, group consultations are used increasingly within primary/secondary care to manage LTCs.

Despite RCT evidence from our team that pharmacist-led group consultations are effective and efficient in primary care, a role for community pharmacy supporting signposting, uptake or delivery of group consultations has not been explored. It offers huge potential to address inequalities, particularly with pharmacies within disadvantaged communities. This studentship aims to co-design community pharmacy-supported group consultation models, focusing on LTC prevention and management, enabling disadvantaged communities to engage with health promotion and peer support.

The studentship has three phases:

  1. Investigate current practice, explore barriers/facilitators to implementation of pharmacy-supported group consultations, and identify training needs of pharmacy teams, through qualitative methods
  2. Exploring public attitudes towards pharmacy-supported group consultations models, through qualitative methods/community engagement
  3. Co-designing mode, form, and content of pharmacy-supported group consultations, informed by existing group consultation evidence, qualitative research (WP1/2), behaviour change and implementation science.

Outputs: The student will disseminate study findings throughout at conferences, in peer-reviewed journals, and to community pharmacy, primary/secondary care networks, and public. On completion, the student and supervisory team will develop further funding applications (target NIHR) – proposed pathway to feasibility/pilot/definitive RCT and economic evaluation.

Impact: The project will provide valuable data on the role of community pharmacy supporting group consultations for LTC prevention and management. The findings will help inform better care integration, assessed against healthcare’s quintuple aim.

Supervisory team combining complementary disciplinary, methodological, clinical and topic expertise from three Northumbria University Departments:

  • Dr Andrew Sturrock, Academic Pharmacist, subject expertise/networks to facilitate dissemination/implementation nationally.
  • Dr Nicki O’Brien, Health Psychologist, co-design/development of lifestyle and self-management interventions expertise
  • Dr Gregory Maniatopoulos, Associate Professor in Healthcare Innovation, health services and implementation research expertise.
  • Professor Fraser Birrell PFHEA, Lifestyle Medicine & Innovation/Visiting Professor, leading international group consultation expert.

The supervisors have a successful track record together, including the national NIHR-adopted group consultation evaluation.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Andrew Sturrock, Dr Nicki O’Brien, Dr Gregory Maniatopoulos and Professor Fraser Birrell. For informal queries, please contact Dr Andrew Sturrock [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities). 

 Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see  

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Russell-Westhead, M., O'Brien, N., Goff, I., Coulson, E., Pape, J., Birrell, F. (2020). Mixed methods study of a new model of care for chronic disease: co-design and sustainable implementation of group consultations into clinical practice. Rheumatology Advances in Practice, 4(1); rkaa003.
Kirsh, S., Aron, D., Johnson, K. et al. (2017). A realist review of shared medical appointments: How, for whom, and under what circumstances do they work?. BMC Health Serv Res 17, 113
Baqir, W., Gray,W., Blair, A. et al. (2020). Osteoporosis group consultations are as effective as usual care: results from a non-inferiority randomized trial. Lifestyle Med 1(1):e3.

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