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Understanding training needs and competences of the health and social care workforce to deliver the behaviour change agenda (Ref: MRDF22/HLS/IHSC/RODRIGUES)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Angela Rodrigues  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The rise in preventable long-term conditions and an ageing population has led to unprecedented demands on public services (WHO, 2014, National Audit Office, 2016, 2018). The recognition of the need for health care systems to focus on prevention of health conditions and complications seems key and a better integration between health and social care services could potentially support public health services.

In the United Kingdom, a policy innovation called Making Every Contact Count (MECC) (NHS England, 2014), specifies that all public sector workers can opportunistically deliver consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information and enable individuals to engage in conversations about their health at scale ( MECC encourages health care professionals and the wider workforce to deliver behaviour change interventions to people during routine consultations and contact. In that sense, MECC has expanded the workforces’ roles to deliver preventive advice and messages and it is thought that the workforce could be trained to have brief, supportive, and cost-effective conversations with the public.

Professionals’ perceptions of capabilities in delivering behaviour change advice, especially if this is a new skill derived from an expanded role, are unknown. Recent research provides pointers for future strategies related to upscaling behaviour change training for opportunistic interventions (Haighton, Rodrigues, et al., 2019); however, more research is needed to test the feasibility and acceptability of these strategies.

This studentship will focus on identifying training packages and other interventions targeted at encouraging opportunistic behaviour change advice for the health and social care workforce. The studentship will utilise systematic reviewing, qualitative enquiry and behavioural analysis techniques using the Behaviour Change Wheel and Behaviour Change Techniques Taxonomy. The studentship will aim to extend and refine the intervention strategies (Haighton, Rodrigues, et al., 2019) through a series of stakeholder engagement activities employing diverse validated methods (e.g. Think-aloud protocols, Delphi studies) to build upon stakeholders’ existing knowledge, capabilities and experiences. The student will also be expected to conduct pilot studies to further explore mechanisms of action and associations between co-produced strategies and behaviour change competence in the health and social care workforce, with a focus on accurately assessing feasibility and acceptability of this approach. There will be a strong focus on public involvement throughout, with the inclusion of a reference group to inform and steer studentship progress and outcomes.

The successful candidate will work closely with a team of academics at Northumbria University (Rodrigues (Health Psychology), Haighton (Public Health), Kelly (Social Work) and the North East and North Cumbria MECC Strategy Group (Katie Bannister) who have strong links with both the North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration and Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • 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 currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

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

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. MRDF22/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Informal enquiries to Dr Angela Rodrigues ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


Haighton C, Newbury-Birch D, Durlik C, Sallis A, Chadborn T, Porter L, Harling M, Rodrigues A. M. Optimising Making Every Contact Count (MECC) interventions: A strategic behavioural analysis. 2020. Health Psychology (In Press).
Wearn, A., Haste, A., Haighton, C., Mallion, V., & Rodrigues, A. M. (2021). Barriers and facilitators to implementing the CURE stop smoking project: a qualitative study. BMC health services research, 21(1), 1-13.
Rodrigues, A. M., Haste, A., Penn, L., Bell, R., Summerbell, C., White, M., ... & Sniehotta, F. F. (2020). Stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of the National Health Service diabetes prevention programme in England: qualitative study with service users, intervention providers and deliverers, commissioners and referrers. BMC health services research, 20(1), 1-13.
Haighton C, Rodrigues AM, Newbury-Birch D, Durlik C, Sallis A, Porter L, Chadborn T. Making Every Contact Count (MECC), Alcohol and Smoking Brief Interventions: Systematic Literature Review and Behavioural Analysis: How do we encourage healthcare professionals to promote positive behaviour change amongst their patients? 2019. Public Health England.
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