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Symptom perception of “breathlessness” and impact on healthcare access in culturally diverse populations

   Department of Health Sciences

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  Dr A Singh, Dr R Evans, Dr Jennifer Creese  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Proposed start date: 1 October 2023

Breathlessness is a debilitating symptom caused by multiple clinical conditions, resulting in reduced quality of life, increased hospitalisations and earlier death. There are long delays to diagnosis for breathlessness associated with worse outcomes. Individuals need to recognise and seek help for breathlessness, and healthcare professionals need to correctly interpret their symptoms. Different cultural groups may have different understandings of breathlessness and ways of articulating symptoms and concerns, with discordance between patient and clinician symptom perception. To meet the needs of the diverse and multicultural population of Leicestershire, this mixed-methods project will develop a better understanding of how people from different cultural traditions perceive and express symptoms of ‘breathlessness’, and how these influence their experiences of healthcare and health outcomes. We will (i) use primary healthcare records (CPRD database) to describe the characteristics of people accessing healthcare for breathlessness, their subsequent pathway and health outcomes, and (ii) use novel qualitative reflexive methods with people from diverse backgrounds to capture, illuminate and optimize culturally-competent healthcare practice. Findings will highlight overlooked population groups, empower diverse local patient groups and organisations, and provide health services and practitioners with deeper understanding of factors that influence symptom perception and seeking healthcare in people from different backgrounds.

Entry requirements:

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. 

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

This programme is open to:

  • allied health professionals
  • nurses
  • midwives
  • junior doctors
  • general practitioners

Fellows recruited to the programme must be practicing healthcare professionals and be registered with a national professional regulatory body (e.g. the General Medical Council, Health and Care Professions Council) in the UK/Republic of Ireland.

Medical graduates must be registered on a UK/Republic of Ireland specialist training programme or must be a registered GP.

All fellows must have completed their undergraduate degree and be registered with the relevant professional body.

Application advice:

Application help:  https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/healthcare-inequalities/application-help.

To apply, please go to: https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/leicestershire-healthcare-inequalities-improvement-dtp

With your application, please include:

  • Full up to date CV
  • Personal statement of 700 words (for detailed instructions on what we will be looking for in your personal statement and your CV, please review the guidance here: https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/healthcare-inequalities/application-help).
  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.

In the funding section please specify that you wish to be considered for Wellcome Trust LHII DTP

In the proposal section please provide the name of at least one or at most two of the projects you are interested in (please indicate title and name of supervisor). The first project you list will be taken to be your preferred choice.

Upload the Widening Participation form (found on the above link) to the proposal section

Project / Funding Enquiries to: [Email Address Removed]

Application enquiries to [Email Address Removed]




Funding Notes

Students on this programme will be supported by a generous funding package. This will include:
• Postgraduate research fee waiver at standard College of Life Sciences UK rates for three years of the PhD
• Wellcome Trust stipend covering your salary for all three years of the PhD
• Research grant for training, research and travel costs


1. Hayen A, Herigstad M, Pattinson KT. (2013) Understanding dyspnea as a complex individual experience. Maturitas, 76(1):45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2013.06.005.
2. Oxley R, Macnaughton J. (2016) Inspiring change: humanities and social science insights into the experience and management of breathlessness. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care, 10(3):256-61. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000221.
3. Dreachslin JL. Conducting Effective Focus Groups in the Context of Diversity: Theoretical Underpinnings and Practical Implications. Qualitative Health Research. 1998;8(6):813-820. doi:10.1177/104973239800800607
4. Levy, Robert I., and Douglas W Hollan. "Person-Centered Interviewing and Observation." In Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology, edited by H. Russell Bernard and Clarence C Gravlee, 296-325. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.
5. Ajjawi, R, Hilder, J, Noble, C, Teodorczuk, A, Billett, S. Using video-reflexive ethnography to understand complexity and change practice. Med Educ. 2020; 54: 908– 914. doi:10.1111/medu.14156
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