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School of Social Sciences Studentships

PhD studentship in the School of Social Sciences

Title: The care and support needs of residential care home residents with dementia and comorbid cancer: a qualitative interview and ethnographic study

Principal supervisors: Dr Laura Ashley and Professor Claire Surr

Funding: Alzheimer’s Society

Start date: 1st October 2018 (full-time for 3 years)

We are seeking to appoint a committed doctoral student who wishes to undertake psychosocial applied health research, to work on an innovative project in residential care home settings. A 3-year fully-funded PhD studentship is available for UK and EU citizens, with a tax-free stipend of £15,000 in the first year, and £16,000 in years 2 and 3, subject to satisfactory progress, and which covers UK/EU tuition fees. The studentship also includes a significant budget for attendance at a one-week summer school on ethnographic methods, research costs (e.g. interview transcription) and dissemination at conferences.

You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit a student with a strong background in health or clinical psychology, health sciences or a related area.

The following qualifications, experience and skills are highly desirable, though not essential: (1) a postgraduate qualification in a relevant discipline; (2) experience of conducting and analysing qualitative interviews; (3) experience of undertaking research with people with dementia or other vulnerable groups, and/or health care professionals; (4) experience of undertaking research in care homes; (5) experience of observational methods; (6) experience of collaborative working with multidisciplinary teams.

Regular travel within Yorkshire and surrounding areas will be required to undertake the research.

For further information, or an informal chat about the project, please contact Dr Laura Ashley on L.J.Ashley@leedsbeckett.ac.uk or 0113 812 4980.

The closing date for applications is midnight Sunday 25th February 2018 and interviews will likely take place Tuesday 27th March 2018.

Research Project

Dementia and cancer are chronic conditions affecting a significant and increasing number of older people; by 2051 there will be 2 million people with dementia in the UK, and by 2020 almost 1 in 2 people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetime. Around one-third of people with dementia in the UK live in a care home, and an estimated 70% of care home residents have dementia, and 10-15% a cancer diagnosis. Unlike nursing homes, which have nurses on duty 24/7, residential homes do not have nursing qualified staff. To date, very little research overall, and none in a residential care home setting, has looked at the care experiences and needs of people with dementia and comorbid cancer. Yet such research is a vital foundation step to identifying and developing interventions to improve care for this particularly vulnerable and somewhat hidden group.

This Alzheimer’s Society funded project aims to: (a) understand the care experiences and needs of people with dementia and comorbid cancer living in residential care homes; (b) determine what good person-centred care for this group and their families looks like, and the barriers and facilitators to providing this; and (c) identify feasible priority target areas and outcomes for future interventions.

Following a literature review, the PhD will involve undertaking interviews and ethnographic observations. Interviews will be conducted with 5-10 residential home residents with dementia and comorbid cancer, 10 family carers and 10-15 residential home staff and visiting health care professionals. Interviews will focus on the experiences and care needs of those living with both dementia and cancer, what good person-centred care looks like, what currently works well and why and what could be improved and how. Observations will follow the experiences of 5-10 residents with dementia and comorbid cancer and areas of good and problematic practice identified in the interviews.


The student will join a growing programme of research around the care needs of people with comorbid dementia and cancer, headed by Dr Ashley and Professor Surr, which includes projects funded by the NIHR-RfPB programme and the Abbeyfield Research Foundation. The student will be based with Dr Ashley in the Psychology group within the School of Social Sciences at the Leeds Beckett City Campus. Professor Surr is based in the School of Health and Community Studies, which is housed in the same building. The Psychology Group have a large and vibrant postgraduate community (currently around 30 PhD students), with a dedicated PhD tutor and internal annual PhD student conference. Professor Surr leads the Centre for Dementia Research, which also has a strong PhD community and support network. As of February 2018, there will be 9 PhD students undertaking dementia-related research across the two Schools, offering excellent opportunities for peer-support and shared learning. The student can access resources and support from both Schools, which both have a track-record in psychosocial health research, and vibrant external-speaker seminar programmes. Dr Ashley and Professor Surr have strong links with the International Psycho-Oncology Society and Interdem (a pan-European network collaborating on psychosocial dementia research).

How to apply

Applicants should send the following to Researchadmissions@leedsbeckett.ac.uk:

  1. a full academic CV
  2. a covering letter detailing your relevant experience and skills
  3. an application form – available on request from Dr Laura Ashley (L.J.Ashley@leedsbeckett.ac.uk or 0113 812 4980)
  4. scanned copies of your degree certificates and transcripts (or marks obtained so far, if still studying)
  5. scanned copy of your passport
  6. Two academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf directly to Researchadmissions@leedsbeckett.ac.uk by no later than midnight Sunday 25th February 2018
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