Professor Robbie Foy

Professor Robbie Foy


I am a Professor of Primary Care at the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences and a general practitioner in Leeds.

My field of work, implementation research, aims to inform policy decisions about how best to use resources to improve the uptake of research findings by evaluating approaches to change professional and organisational behaviour.

I was formerly a Clinical Senior Lecturer (Newcastle University) and an MRC Training Fellow in health services research (Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen). I also trained as a public health physician. I was a 2006–7 Harkness/Health Foundation Fellow in Health Care Policy, based jointly between the Veteran’s Administration and RAND in Los Angeles. I was Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the open access journal, Implementation Science, until 2015. I have been a member of the NICE Implementation Strategy Group from 2008 (and chair from 2022). I work with a number of national clinical audit programmes to improve population healthcare, by promoting the use of evidence-based feedback methods and evaluating ways of improving the impact of feedback.


  • Head of Division of Primary Care, Palliative Care and Public Health

Research interests

Measuring and understanding the uptake of evidence-based practice

This theme is mainly based around hypothesis-generating studies, qualitative and quantitative, to describe and explain the uptake of evidence-based practice. This entails:

  • Identifying health problems with high impacts (eg mortality, morbidity, costs) where there are potentially significant gaps between evidence and practice
  • Developing criteria and methods for measuring the implementation of evidence-based practice
  • Identifying patterns of variations in implementation (eg areas of care where all or most practices perform poorly, subsets of practices or patients consistently associated with poorer performance)
  • The use of individual and system-level theories and frameworks in diagnosing the most important causes of inappropriate variations that are amenable to change.

Changing clinical and organisational practice

Work in this theme is mainly based around hypothesis-testing studies to estimate the effects of implementation strategies with embedded process evaluations to explore causal mechanisms. It entails:

  • The design of implementation strategies targeting the most important determinants of practice based upon available systematic reviews, diagnostic analyses (theme 1) and the explicit mapping of intervention elements to key determinants of change
  • Randomised and quasi-experimental studies to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions 
  • Theory-based process evaluations, using qualitative and quantitative methods, embedded within intervention studies to explore and explain effects.


This theme inherently incorporates many of the methodological aspects and tasks embedded in the aforementioned themes. However, one further critical objective is to critically engage with national and international researchers and quality improvement leaders in order to advance the methodological and epistemological debate about how research can best inform and influence the implementation of high-quality health care.

My collaborations include the Leeds Unit for Complex Intervention Development (LUCID) and the Audit and Feedback Metalab.

Current collaborations and projects include:

ENACT: Enhancing national clinical audit and feedback

Understanding and improving the quality of primary care for prisoners: a mixed methods study (Qual-P)

NIHR Applied Research Collaborative Yorkshire and Humber

Atlantis (low dose amitriptyline as second-line in irritable bowel syndrome)

CANAssess: Cancer Patients’ Needs Assessment in Primary Care

PROSPER: Personalised care planning to improve quality of life for older people with frailty

PACT: Partners at Care Transitions

ROSETA: Refining and Optimising a behavioural intervention to Support Endocrine Therapy Adherence

Electronic Palliative Care Co-ordination Systems (EPaCCS) in end of life care

EQUIPD: An evaluation of quality improvement collaboratives aligned to a national audit to improve the uptake of insulin pumps for people with diabetes

AsterAKI: Applying Systems Thinking to Enhance Recovery after Acute Kidney Injury

NIHR Data-Driven Blood Transfusion Research Unit

NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Research Collaboration


  • PhD, University of Edinburgh, 2004
  • MFPHM, 1997
  • MSc in Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Manchester, 1995
  • MRCGP, 1992
  • MB ChB, University of Edinburgh, 1988

Professional memberships

  • Society for Academic Primary Care
  • UK Society for Behavioural Medicine

Student education

I supervise undergraduate, masters students and clinical academic trainees in topics relevant to my research.

Research groups and institutes

  • Health services research
  • Complex interventions
  • Primary care
  • Implementation Science

Current postgraduate researchers

<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>