Tom Sanders

BA, MSc, PhD

School of Health and Related Research

Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Full contact details

Tom Sanders
School of Health and Related Research
Regent Court (ScHARR)
30 Regent Street
S1 4DA

I am now working as an Associate Professor at the University of Northumbria and have been awarded the title of  Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield.

Prior to this I worked as a Senior Research Fellow in the Public Health Section of ScHARR at the University of Sheffield where I worked in the Translating Knowledge to Action theme (CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber). Prior to joining the University of Sheffield I was a Senior Research Fellow (Qualitative) at the ARUK Primary Care Centre, Keele University (2010-14) where I worked on studies investigating the implementation of new healthcare interventions, largely within large trials in primary care.

Between 2005 and 2010 I was a Lecturer in Medical Sociology at Manchester Medical School. Prior to this I held a NHS Executive Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Health Services Research (2002-5) under the supervision of Professor Stephen Harrison at the University of Manchester on a qualitative study investigating the use of evidence in the management of heart failure. This work examined how guidelines shape clinical decisions, building on Professor Harrison’s influential ‘Scientific Bureaucratic Medicine’ Theory (2000).

Previously I also worked as a researcher at the University of Cardiff on a population case series of suspected non-accidental head injuries in young children (2000-2002), culminating in a book, and at the University of Bristol (1998-2000) on a study exploring risk perceptions of cancer risk among the general public and first degree relatives of people diagnosed with cancer. This research utilised insights from Tversky and Kahneman’s (1974) seminal research on heuristics and biases in human judgement.

Prior to this study I held a MRC funded PhD studentship (1995-1998) to conduct a qualitative observational study of decision-making processes in the consultation between oncologists and bowel cancer patients. My first job in research came in 1994 where I joined a team, straight after completing an MSc in Medical Sociology, at the Department of Social Medicine University of Bristol, to investigate variations in the regional management of cancer services in South West England.

Research interests

I am a qualitative medical sociologist with a background in applied health research with interests spanning a range of healthcare topics. My research interests centre on knowledge translation (research utilisation) in the healthcare setting with a particular interest in the influence of organisational context on the uptake of research evidence by health professionals.

I have experience in the application of a broad range of qualitative methods including naturalistic observation, semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups. Key research interests include:

  • Knowledge mobilisation in health
  • Evidence use in healthcare
  • Social influences on implementation of healthcare interventions

Current projects

Current and recent research has included qualitative studies investigating implementation related questions, a) the acceptability and adoption of a health economics modelling tool for commissioning of type 2 diabetes/obesity services by a local authority, b) scoping and improving current service models for post-partum weight management, c) scoping and developing optimal models of care to promote the uptake of vision treatment by young children (4-5 years old), and d) observations of an educational intervention (‘WICKED’ course) to optimise self-management of type 1 diabetes by young adults during the transition from childhood to adult care.

Research group

PhD Students

  • Steven Markham
  • Viola Cassetti
  • Rachel King
  • Liz Alcock (Completed)
  • Zoe Paskins (completed)
  • Tom Porter (completed)
  • Diane Whalley (completed)
  • Suzanne Vaughan (completed)
Teaching interests

My teaching interests reside in medical sociology, qualitative methods, and knowledge mobilisation in healthcare. I am particularly interested in the use of social theory in applied health research to explain key healthcare questions and implementation issues.

Professional activities
  • Member of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) sub-panel (Qualitative Methodologist) 2017 -
  • Acting Director of Postgraduate Research
  • Member of the British Sociological Association
  • Associate Editor BMC Family Practice
  • Regularly review grant proposals (NIHR and other bodies)
  • Regularly review papers for both sociology and health journals