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Funded PhD Opportunity

The use of a Regional Hospital Passport for people with learning disabilities as a means of providing ‘reasonable adjustments’ in general hospitals.

Subject: Nursing and Health


Project Summary (Max 500 words)It is recognised internationally that people with learning (intellectual) disabilities have poorer health than people in the wider general population.  Such poor health may be compounded by difficulties in accessing timely investigation and treatment, as well as the necessary follow up action. In particular, challenges for people with learning disabilities have been identified internationally in relation to accessing general hospital services. It has been argued that this contributes to the higher levels of premature and avoidable deaths among people with learning disabilities (Heslop, et al., 2013).

The major issues that have been identified are the failure to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments to facilitate the access to services and difficulties in communication within and between people and services involved. In order to improve the effective communication between people with learning disabilities, family members and staff within general hospital services, a Regional HSC Hospital Passport for people with learning disabilities was launched in Northern Ireland by the Public Health Agency in May 2017. The development of this Passport was led by Professor Owen Barr on behalf of PHA. The aim of this project is to establish the impact of the HSC Hospital Passport for people with learning disabilities in achieving reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities using general hospital services.

This project will examine:

i) how people with learning disabilities obtain a HSC Hospital Passport

ii) the experience of people with learning disabilities in completing their HSC Hospital Passport

iii) the use staff in general hospitals make of the HSC Hospital Passport as perceived by people with learning disabilities, family and other carers, and staff in general hospital services

iv) evidence of ‘reasonable adjustments’ make to support people with learning disabilities use general hospital services as perceived by people with learning disabilities, family and other carers, and staff in general hospital services.

At present, it is expected that the project will use a mixed methods approach and include:

i) Qualitative interviews with service users; using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith et al. 2009),

ii) Qualitative interviews or focus groups with service providers and family and other carers using thematic analysis (Newell and Burnard 2011),

iii) Quantitative surveys of service providers to examine their understanding of the health needs of people with learning disabilities, the requirement for reasonable adjustments and their views on caring for people with learning disabilities in general hospitals.

Participants in this project will be recruited through Health and Social Care Trust learning disability and general hospitals services and major regional voluntary groups supporting people with learning disabilities and their families. The project will also be overseen by a steering group comprising the stakeholders, including Mencap, Inspire, and Association for Real Change (ARC).

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Ulster University has very enhanced independent  learning.  I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get  new motivation.  I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.

Professor Stenver Lin - PhD Radiology

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I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS.  I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time.  Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.

Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of Nursing

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
20th or 21st March 2018

Contact supervisor

Professor Owen Barr

Other supervisors


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