Professor Karen Spilsbury

Professor Karen Spilsbury


I joined the University of Leeds in March 2015 as Chair in Nursing. I am a registered nurse and applied health and care researcher. My expertise extends to fields central to contemporary nursing practice, demonstrated by the development of a programme of policy and practice relevant research in the areas of the health and care workforce and care for older people. In particular, I am interested in evaluating how changes in the composition, organisation and management of the  workforce impact on quality of care and outcomes.

I was awarded my personal Chair at the University of York in 2012. I am an Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia and Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh).

I am Academic Director for Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence (NICHE-Leeds), a partnership between care (providers and local authority) and science (University of Leeds, with Leeds Beckett University and Maastricht University). I provide the leadership and research expertise required to engineer interdisciplinary collaborations to help care homes innovate effectively, efficiently and sustainably to enhance quality.

I am an NIHR Senior Investigator (2023-2027). I was a full member of HEFCE’s REF2021 Sub-panel 3 in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (2021-2022).

I was a member of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patent Benefit Programme Yorkshire and Humber Regional Funding Committee (2009-2013) and NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research Programme Commissioning Board (2014-2018). I am currentlly a core member of the NIHR PRP Commissioning Committee (July 2022-) and panel member for the NIHR DLAF. My editorial duties included an Associate Editor role with the International Journal of Nursing Studies (2010-2018).


  • Research theme lead: People, Services and Systems
  • Academic Director: NICHE-Leeds

Research interests

The past 10 years has seen me lead or contribute to acquisition of new research and infrastructure grants as PI\theme\work package lead from prestigious and competitive research funders: £19.6m for 30 different studies. I have developed research with impact and to lead the way in care home research. My research programme is recognised as world leading with an extensive network of international collaborations, e.g., “We-Thrive” ( to develop common datasets for international collaborative research in long-term care; “Living Lab in Ageing and Long-Term Care” (Maastricht University) to enhance quality in long-term care. My research programme is aligned to policy and practice priorities, specifically the efficient use of the scarcest and yet most expensive resource in health and social care – its workforce, and enhancing quality and experience for people living in care homes.

My research integrates innovative public involvement and engagement as a core element.. I am actively developing mechanisms and structures to increase capacity development for care home reserach. working closely with groups of staff, residents, and relatives, supporting them to articulate topics and uncertainties. My research has benefited from, and been shaped by, close engagement with policymakers and planners over an extended time period: DHSC; Chief Nurse's Office; Skills for Care; Skills for Health; NHS England\Improvement; NHS Employers; Directors and planners; Health Education England (HEE); Care England; National Care Forum; Leeds City Council; and Charities.


Examples of recently completed funded research projects as Principal Investigator include:


Ongoing funded research includes:

Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds (NICHE-Leeds). PI Professor Karen Spilsbury (University of Leeds)

How general practice team composition and climate relate to quality, effectiveness and human resource costs: a mixed methods study in England. PI Professor Heather Gage (University of Surrey)

Improving care for older people with frailty: Theme in NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber, PI Professor John Wright (Bradford Institute for Health Research)

Developing research resources And minimum data set for Care Homes' Adoption and use (the DACHA study). PI Professor Claire Goodman (University of Hertfordhsire)

REcruiting and RetAining nurses, and carers in Care Homes: what works, for which staff, under what circumstances, and at what cost? The REACH Realist Review. PI Dr Reena Devi (University of Leeds)

End of life care in care homes: supporting the workforce and reducing hospitalisations. PI Professor Liz Forbat (University of Stirling)

CONtact TrAcing in Care homes using digital Technology (CONTACT) - A pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial. PI Professor Carl Thompson (University of Leeds)

Caring Optimally: promoting effective Mouth MInuTes (COMMIT Study). Co-PI Professor Karen Spilsbury and Professor Gail Douglas (University of Leeds)

The Yorkshire & Humber Palliative Care Research Network: Addressing Inequalities Across All Ages. PI Professor Fliss Murtagh (University of Hull)


  • PhD Nursing
  • Leadership in Action
  • PG Certificate in Academic Practice
  • BA (Hons) Nursing
  • Registered Nurse

Professional memberships

  • Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Royal College of Nursing
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy

Student education

I have an active role contributing to teaching, assessment, supervision and the student experience through focused activities on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

I have made significant contributions to student education as a programme and module lead and have received awards for my skills as a supervisor and innovations in teaching.

I have supported PhD students to successful completion and currently supervise doctoral students. I have externally examined nursing and health science doctorates at the University of Manchester, Southampton University and King’s College London; all top ranking academic departments in nursing and healthcare in the UK.

I am always keen to hear from prospective doctoral and post-doctoral candidates interested in pursuing research focused on the health and care workforce, older people or care homes.

Research groups and institutes

  • People, systems and services
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>