Tom Sanders BA, MSc, PhD

Honorary Senior Research FellowTomSanders2017

University of Sheffield
School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)
Section of Public Health
Regent Court
30 Regent Street
S1 4DA


ORCiD: 0000-0002-9163-2964


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

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

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.

Key Publications

Glogowska M, Simmonds R, McLachlan S, Cramer H. Sanders T, Johnson R, Kadam UT, Lasserson DS & Purdy S. (2016) "sometimes we can't fix things".  A qualitative study of health care professionals' perceptions of end of life care for patients with heart failure.  BMC Palliative Care, 15(1).  View this article in White Rose Research Online

Paskins Z, Sanders T, Croft PR & Hassell AB (2015) The identity crisis of osteoarthritis in general practice: A qualitative study using video-stimulated recall. Annals of Family Medicine, 13(6), 537-544.  View this article in White Rose Research Online

McLachlan S, Mansell G, Sanders T, Yardley S, van der Windt D, Brindle L, Chew-Graham C & Little P (2015) Symptom perceptions and help-seeking behaviour prior to lung and colorectal cancer diagnoses: a qualitative study.. Fam Pract, 32(5), 568-577. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Sanders T, Ong BN, Roberts D & Corbett M (2015) Health maintenance, meaning, and disrupted illness trajectories in people with low back pain: A qualitative study. Health Sociology Review, 24(1), 1-14. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Vaughan S, Sanders T, Crossley N, O'Neill P & Wass V (2015) Bridging the gap: the roles of social capital and ethnicity in medical student achievement. Medical Education, 49(1), 114-123. View this article in WRRO

Sanders T, Nio Ong B, Sowden G & Foster N (2014) Implementing change in physiotherapy: professions, contexts and interventions. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 28(1), 96-114. View this article in WRRO

Ong BN, Rogers A, Kennedy A, Bower P, Sanders T, Morden A, Cheraghi-Sohi S, Richardson JC & Stevenson F (2014) Behaviour change and social blinkers? The role of sociology in trials of self-management behaviour in chronic conditions. Sociology of Health and Illness, 36(2), 226-238. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Ong BN, Morden A, Brooks L, Porcheret M, Edwards JJ, Sanders T, Jinks C & Dziedzic K (2014) Changing policy and practice: Making sense of national guidelines for osteoarthritis.  Social Science and Medicine, 106, 101-109. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Welsh VK, Sanders T, Richardson JC, Wynne-Jones G, Jinks C & Mallen CD (2014) Extending the authority for sickness certification beyond the medical profession: The importance of 'boundary work'. BMC Family Practice, 15(1). View this article in White Rose Research Online

Sanders T, Foster NE, Bishop A & Ong BN (2013) Biopsychosocial care and the physiotherapy encounter: Physiotherapists' accounts of back pain consultations. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 14. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Sanders T, Foster NE & Ong BN (2011) Perceptions of general practitioners towards the use of a new system for treating back pain: a qualitative interview study. BMC Medicine, 9 (1). View this article in WRRO

Sanders T, Harrison S & Checkland K (2010) Personalizing protocol-driven care: the case of specialist heart failure nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, Sep;66 (9):1937-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05368.

Sanders T & Harrison S (2008) Professional legitimacy claims in the multidisciplinary workplace: the case of heart failure care. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30(2), 289-308

Sanders T, Harrison S & Checkland K (2008) Evidence-based medicine and patient choice: The case of heart failure care. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 13(2), 103-108. View this article in WRRO

Sanders T, Campbell R, Donovan J & Sharp D (2007) Narrative Accounts of Hereditary Risk: Knowledge About Family History, Lay Theories of Disease, and "Internal" and "External" Causation. Qualitative Health Research, 17(4), 510-520.

Sanders T, Campbell R, Sharp D & Donovan J (2003) Risk constructions among people who have a first-degree relative with cancer. Health, Risk & Society, 5(1), 53-69.

Full list of publications available here