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Funded PhD Opportunity

Fidelity assessment of the Walking fOR Health (WORtH) intervention to increase activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in people with severe mental illness

Subject: Nursing and Health


The PhD student will work alongside the research team (funded by Horizon2020 Cross-border Healthcare Intervention Trials in Ireland Network (CHITIN)) to test the feasibility of a Walking fOR Health (WORtH) intervention to increase activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in people with severe mental illness (SMI).  The research will address the urgent need to improve the physical health and well-being of people with SMI as indicated in national guidelines (

The student will be responsible for developing a framework to assess fidelity of the WORtH intervention. The Medical Research Council guidelines have recommended evaluating treatment fidelity in complex interventions (Craig et al. 2008). Fidelity has been defined as the degree to which an intervention is implemented as intended. There are several sets of guidance which inform methods of assessing fidelity e.g. the National Institutes of Health Behavior Change Consortium (NIHBCC) guidance (Bellg et al, 2004), the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) reporting guidelines (Hoffmann et al, 2014), and recent review papers (Borelli et al, 2011; Toomey et al, 2014; O’Shea et al, 2016). However these guidelines need to be translated into a methodological framework that can be used to assess fidelity of clinical trials within the area of SMI.

Procedures: The intervention will be delivered by clinical staff in Northern and Western Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts in Northern Ireland (NI) and in County Louth Mental Health Services, a border county in the Republic of Ireland (ROI). The intervention will a 17-week programme. Currently there is no manualised training for this programme and so it will be a key responsibility of the PhD student to develop this manual (in collaboration with the research team) as well as develop the fidelity check lists that could be used in the feasibility trial. Appropriate fidelity guidance will be reviewed to develop a methodological framework. We anticipate that a combination of strategies or methods will be used to enhance, establish, and ensure fidelity (eg, intervention manuals) and to assess or monitor it (eg, direct observations). The Borrelli (2011) checklist, based on the best practice guidelines and recommendations (Bellg et al. 2004) may also be used. Outcomes: The development of a framework to assess fidelity of the (WORtH) intervention with respect to intervention training and intervention delivery (both enactment and receipt). References Bellg et al. Health Psychol . 2004;23:443–451 Borrelli, B. J Public Health Dent. 2011;71(suppl 1):S52–S63.–294. Craig P et al. BMJ. 2008 Sep 29;337:a1655. Hoffmann et al. BMJ . 2014;348:g1687. O’Shea O et al. (2016). Physical Therapy Reviews, 21 (3-6). pp. 207-214. Toomey et al. Man Ther . 2014;20:287.

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.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal


    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.

Institute of Mental Health Sciences funded PhD

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.

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 5 November 2018

Interview Date
12 November 2018

Contact supervisor

Professor Suzanne McDonough

Other supervisors


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