Professor Karen Spilsbury

Professor Karen Spilsbury


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

Karen was awarded her personal Chair at the University of York in 2012. She is an Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia. Karen 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). Her 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

Over the past decade, Karen has been associated with research grant income from prestigious and competitively funded sources of more than £7m (as Principal and Co-investigator). Her work on healthcare assistants makes an important contribution to international debates about the roles of assistants in nursing; roles which are likely to have greater future policy significance. Her other research interest is the promotion of quality in care for older people in care homes. She has widely published her work.She is Academic Director for NICHE-Leeds (Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds): an innovative partnership project between Leeds Care Association and the University of Leeds which aims to enhance and promote quality of care for older people living in nursing homes in Leeds. Ongoing funded research projects include:

Values Based Recruitment: What works, for whom, why, and in what circumstances? PI Professor Karen Spilsbury

Innovation to enhance health in care homes: Rapid evidence synthesis. PI Professor Barbara Hanratty (University of Newcastle)

Organising general practice for care homes: A multi-method study. PI Professor Barbara Hanratty (University of Newcastle)

Relationship between care home staffing and quality of care: a mixed methods approach. PI Professor Karen Spilsbury

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)

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

Seeking answers for care home clinical uncertainties (SEARCH-U study). PI Professor Carl Thompson (University of Leeds)

Improving care for older people with frailty: Theme in NIHR Applied Research Collaboration, Yorkshire and Humber ARC. 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)

Developing understanding of workplace relationships in care homes: preparatory work and personal development. PI Dr Kirsty Haunch (University of Leeds)

Learning by Experience and Supporting the Care Home Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic: key lessons learnt so far by health and care professionals working on the frontline (LESS COVID-19). PI Professor Karen Spilsbury


  • 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
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