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Improving the interaction between visually impaired people and health services

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Prof C Dickinson , Dr D Phipps , Dr P Lewis Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

An important, but relatively under-explored, issue in healthcare quality and safety is the interaction between healthcare systems and patients with visual impairment. In its own right, visual impairment can have an impact on the way that patients access information or services, manage their medication or use medical devices. In addition, many visually impaired individuals are elderly, which can mean they have complex healthcare needs such as multi-morbidity or conditions associated with ageing. It is possible that visually impaired people encounter difficulties in their use of healthcare services that are problematic for their physical or mental wellbeing. For example, recent evidence suggests that patients with sensory loss (including visual impairment) are at increased risk of iatrogenic harm due to communication difficulties around medicines use; furthermore, these needs may not be properly recognised or accommodated by healthcare systems. Some attempts have previously been made to incorporate user-centred design principles into medicines management, for example by revising the design of medicines packaging and ensuring that information to support safe medicines usage is readily available to patients. However, there remains more to be understood about the challenges that visually impaired patients experience in using healthcare services, and what personal adaptations or system changes are needed to help them overcome these challenges.

The proposed project will: (i) identify the needs of visually impaired people when interacting with health services; and (ii) develop and test interventions to improve their interaction with health services.

While the project may look at any aspect of healthcare, we are particularly interested in medicines usage given the supervisory team’s areas of expertise. Our preference is for a mixed-method project, but we will also consider proposals for qualitative-only or quantitative-only research.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant area, e.g. health services research; vision science; pharmacy; social sciences; design.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Medical / Clinical Science.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

Fees can be found here K:\FBMH Doctoral Academy\DA Reference Library - Policy and Procedures\Fees


Cupples et al (2012) Improving healthcare access for people with visual impairment and blindness BMJ 344:e542

Killick et al. (2018). A scoping review of the pharmaceutical care needs of people with sensory loss. Int J Pharm Pract 26: 380-386

Kim (2017) Understanding of how older adults with low vision obtain, process, and understand health information and services. Informatics for Health and Social Care DOI: 10.1080/17538157.2017.1363763

Latham et al (2011) Do best practice guidelines improve the legibility of pharmacy labels for the visually impaired? Ophthal Physiol Opt 31: 275-282

Ward et al. (2010). Designing packaging to support the safe use of medicines at home. Appl Ergon 41: 682-694
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