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Exploring and understanding breast referral behaviours in primary care in women under the age of 35 years.


Location:  University Park
Closing Date:  Friday 16 December 2022
Reference:  MED1907

An exciting new research collaboration between the breast education charity Coppafeel and the University of Nottingham is funding a UK PhD studentship within the Nottingham Centre for Public Health and Epidemiology. 

Coppafeel is a UK breast health education charity which is focussed on improving breast awareness in young people. There are often barriers to referral from primary care to secondary care for young women with breast concerns. There are inequalities in breast referral patterns for women under the age of 35 years in the UK. We also know these inequalities are exacerbated further for BME women, and vulnerable populations (e.g. disabled, traveller, learning difficulties).

In order to better understand how to target education for healthcare professionals and the public, it is first important to understand the barriers to seeking healthcare for breast issues, and the barriers to referral into secondary care.

We are looking to recruit a PhD student with an interest in public health, primary care and or medical education. An interest in health promotion and breast cancer care is important. 

Project objectives:

The project will aim to meet the following objectives. These are broadly outlined below, and will be finalised and made more specific during the PhD.

  1. Systematic review exploring existing literature on the barriers to breast referral in the UK for women under 35 years.
  2. To conduct a series of interviews and focus groups with women about their experiences of breast referral in the UK. To understand where the common barriers are and how these can be targeted with further research and educational interventions.
  3. To conduct a series of interviews and focus groups with healthcare professionals in primary care and secondary care about the barriers to referral for breast health in women under 35 years.
  4. To use information collected in 1-3 to develop a series of medical education video consultations which will showcase patient-GP consultations and will ask GPs and healthcare professionals to describe the processes they would take if faced with this type of patient. These videos will include women under 35 from a range of demographic and cultural backgrounds as well as older women to act as a comparator. These video consultations can be analysed to make further recommendations for educational developments around breast health barriers.
  5. To provide a series of recommendations for future research and educational interventions aligned with the outcomes of 1-4 above.


Further Information

You will work with Professor Emma Wilson (Professor of Public Health), Professor Neil Coulson (Professor of Health Psychology) and Dr Jaspal Taggar (Clinical Associate Professor in Primary Care). You will also be supported by Dr Rakesh Patel (Medical Education) and Miss Georgette Oni (Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon).


Applicants should hold a 2.1 undergraduate degree and a good masters’ degree in a subject relevant to public health, health psychology, primary care or medical education.


For enquiries in relation to this project, please email Emma Wilson, using the email below. Applications for this studentship should consist of a full detailed CV and a covering letter outlining relevant experience and interest in the PhD area. A statement outlining your suggested approaches to answering the PhD brief should also be included in the covering letter. These should be submitted directly by email to Prof Emma Wilson This project is also advertised via Find a PhD

Funding Information

(UK Students Only) Funded Project

Funding Notes (optional): Funding received from Coppafeel (R01632)

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