Investigating approaches to paediatric pain assessment, communication and management in primary care: A focus on long-term musculoskeletal conditions

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Sarah Peters, Dr Rebecca Lee  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Chronic musculoskeletal pain is experienced by up to 40% of children and young people and can have a major impact physically and emotionally on them, their families and even healthcare professionals who struggle to communicate and manage this pain. Pain in this group can be challenging to discuss as children/young people’s understanding of their pain may be limited, as is the vocabulary they have to exchange this information. Furthermore, the presence of several key stakeholders (e.g. parents and healthcare professionals) in these conversations fuels complicated communication patterns. Consequently, there is evidence to suggest that conversations about pain in children/young people do not always occur. This has not been explored in primary care to date. This PhD will investigate how pain is assessed, communicated about and subsequently managed in primary care settings. The overall aim of the project will be to identify examples of effective and ineffective approaches to and to develop the theoretical basis of an intervention to improve practices around this.

The project will involve 4 stages:

1) a systematic review of literature about pain approaches in primary care

2) A qualitative interview study with healthcare professionals, parents and children/young people about their experiences of challenges to having effective conversations about pain in primary care

3) An observational study of clinical interactions between healthcare professionals, parents and children/young people in primary care.

4) The development of theory directed at facilitating effective pain conversations in primary care settings.

The precise research questions and methodology will depend on the student’s interests and preferences. The supervisory team has strong links to local healthcare services, and can support opportunities to develop these links and facilitate recruitment. It is expected that stakeholder involvement will play a central role in developing and conducting the research.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. Candidates with previous laboratory experience are particularly encouraged to apply.

How To Apply

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 the appropriate subject title.

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.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website”

Biological Sciences (4) Psychology (31)

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


Lee R, McDonagh JE, Farre A, Peters S, Cordingley L, Rapley T. (2022). Data protection, information governance and the potential erosion of ethnographic methods in healthcare? Sociology of Health & Illness.
Lee R, McDonagh JE, Connelly M, Peters S, Cordingley L. (2021) Identifying the content and context of pain within paediatric rheumatology health professional curricula in the UK: A summative content analysis Paediatric Rheumatologt 19:129
Kumar K, Bradbury-Jones, Armitage CJ, Peters S, Raizda S, Wong P. (2020) Comparing reactions to written leaflets, online information and real-time Doppler images among South Asian patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology Advances in Practice DOI: 10.1093/rap/rkaa009
Lee, R.R. Rashid,A., Ghio.D., Thomson,W & Cordingley, L., (2019). “Seeing pain differently”: A qualitative investigation into the differences and similarities of pain and rheumatology specialists interpretation of multi-dimensional mHealth pain data from children and young people with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Journal of mHealth and uHealth, 10.2196/12952
Lee, R.R., Rashid,A., Thomson,W & Cordingley, L., (2019). “Reluctant to assess pain”: A qualitative study of healthcare professionals’ beliefs about the role of pain in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Arthritis Care & Research,
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