Postgraduate Research Students

Samantha Pilsworth

ASPIRE – peer support intervention to promote active living for people with chronic respiratory disease.

Director of Studies: Dr Carol Kelly

Supervisory Team: Dr Andrew Levy and Professor Adrian Midgley

My project will be investigating if peer support interventions can be utilised to help improve uptake of pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) for patients with a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

PR is recommended as a mainstay treatment for patients with a chronic respiratory disease; as these are long term conditions, treatment is frequently aimed at improving symptoms burden, quality of life and self-management ability. PR is an individually tailored, multi-disciplinary delivered intervention combining both exercise and education. The evidence base for the effectiveness of PR is irrefutable and it features as a key management strategy in both national and international guidelines.

Despite its overwhelming evidence base and benefits (including improved exercise tolerance, increased quality of life, reduced hospitalisation and re-admission, reduced mortality and cost saving benefits) uptake remains low.  National audit data collected by the Royal College of Physicians (2015) shows only 15% of eligible patients with a diagnosis of COPD accept a referral onto the programme.

My research question is “Can a peer support intervention be developed to improve uptake behaviour in patients with a diagnosis of COPD attending PR?”

Peers have the unique ability of being able to share the lived experience of the patient that the healthcare professional is unable to do.

This project will be a feasibility study to investigate if a peer support intervention can be developed to improve uptake rates of PR.  The project will use peer support and behaviour change theory to develop and test acceptability of this intervention to ultimately improve patient care.

I have worked within the respiratory field for over 17 years; the majority has been involved with the delivery of PR and optimising treatment for patients with COPD and chronic respiratory disease.  I have always toyed with the idea of eventually undertaking a PhD, but only commenced on the pathway in February 2021.


Andrew Booth

Relationship between inspiratory and expiratory flow rate in people with obstructive airways disease and how this may inform inhaler selection.

Director of Studies: Dr Carol Kelly

artwork depicting lungs

Second Supervisor: Prof Sally Spencer

My project is looking at how to improve inhaler device selection in primary care, through looking at the relationship between inspiratory flow rate and expiratory flow rate in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Inhaled therapy remains the mainstay of treatment for people with respiratory conditions. Treatment is safe and effective, however knowledge and ability to use the plethora of different devices is sometimes complex, and can be difficult for non-specialist health professionals working in Primary Care.

In essence there are just two types of inhaler devices: Aerosol and Dry Powder. Aerosol inhalers require a “slow and steady” inhalation, whereas Powder inhalers require a “quick and deep” inhalation. My project aims to establish if there is a surrogate marker or indicator, that is readily available for General Practitioners, Practice Nurses and Community Pharmacists, to enhance their decision-making process.

My research question is; ‘Can you use Spirometry or Peak Flow, which are regularly measured in primary care, to predict if people with respiratory conditions are more suitable for either an Aerosol or a Powder inhaler?’ The output of the project ultimately is to produce a tool or methodology for health professional use, to improve treatment for people with respiratory conditions.

I have been looking after people with COPD and asthma for the past twenty years, checking inhaler technique, undertaking lung function testing, and optimising treatment. Although I have been considering a PhD for the past five years, it has only been this February that I have started my project.


Hayat Hamzeh

Developing a core outcome set for physiotherapy research in bronchiectasis.

Director of Studies: Prof Sally Spencer

Second Supervisor: Dr Carol Kelly

I have a special interest in outcome measures and tools, which are an important part of my work as a physiotherapist. I am also interested in physiotherapy treatment for people with respiratory disease. My PhD project is titled: developing a core outcome set for physiotherapy research in bronchiectasis. This means defining what is important to measure and how to measure it in studies that evaluate the effectiveness of physiotherapy to treat bronchiectasis.  

Physiotherapy is one of the recommended and commonly used treatments for people with bronchiectasis, but the research evidence supporting it is not currently strong. There is high variation among researchers regarding which outcomes to measure in their studies, which makes them hard to use in producing scientific evidence. Using interviews and a special form of surveys, this project aims to achieve agreement among researchers, people with bronchiectasis, and physiotherapists on which outcomes to use in research and clinical practice.  

The output of this research will be a list of recommended outcomes and tools to be used by all researchers and physiotherapists working in this area. Which will make future research more meaningful for people with bronchiectasis and more helpful for physiotherapists in measuring the effect of their treatment.