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Development of iSupport-PD, a digital intervention for carers of people with Parkinson’s (RDF23/HLS/NMH/Hand)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Prof Annette Hand, Prof Darren Flynn  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that will affect 168,000 people in the UK by 2025. People with Parkinson’s have a vast array of motor symptoms (tremor, stiffness and slowness) and non-motor symptoms (such as depression and anxiety). Most people living with Parkinson’s will require support from informal (unpaid) carers. The caring role can increase stress and have a negative impact on the carers’ quality of life. Supporting carers to maintain their physical and mental health is crucial. The World Health Organization has developed iSupport, a digital intervention for carers of people with dementia. It provides information and skills training for carers to take care of themselves, provide everyday care and deal with complex behaviour changes. Our research team have been awarded an NIHR RfSC grant to adapt iSupport for carers of people with Parkinson’s and cognitive impairment (iSupport-PD), but this resource will require further development to ensure it meets the needs of all carers of people with Parkinson’s.

Project objectives:

  1. To undertake a systematic review to examine the impact of digital and psychosocial interventions for PD carers
  2. To adapt iSupport-PD, following a validated person-based approach (PBA), to ensure it is suitable for all carers of people with Parkinson’s
  3. Conduct a mixed-methods evaluation of iSupport-PD


A systematic review of the current quantitative and/or qualitative literature will provide an up-to-date evidence base to inform intervention development. Following the PBA to intervention development (www.personbasedapproach.org), PPI and stakeholder engagement will ensure the intervention is informed by an in-depth understanding of the needs and challenges of this group. The evaluation study will involve mixed-methods, will include carers of people with Parkinson’s across the UK and will help address some of the key uncertainties about the intervention that must be addressed before a definitive effectiveness trial is carried out.

Long-term Goal:

iSupport-PD will enable carers to acquire the knowledge, skills, and confidence to better manage their own health and well-being; to better support and co-manage the symptoms of the person with PD; to feel empowered in their role and become a valuable member of the multidisciplinary team; and to successfully access available support and resources. This could improve quality of life for carers and people with Parkinson’s and lead to better utilisation of health and social care resources, reduce hospital admissions and long-term care home placement.

Project Opportunities:

This project offers an opportunity to develop applied research skills and work alongside an NIHR funded project. You will be working closely with several Parkinson’s services and Parkinson’s UK to co-design and evaluate this new intervention. There will be the potential for iSupport-PD to be translated into other languages and adapted for other cultures. You will have the opportunity to work with the international iSupport research study group to share experience and expertise on developing iSupport for conditions other than dementia. Our expertise and experience can be used by health and care researchers, across the UK, and worldwide, to facilitate the development of the iSupport resources for multiple long-term conditions.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Professor Annette Hand. For informal queries, please contact Prof Annette Hand ([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 https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. 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 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • 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

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