Professor Catherine Exley
Professor of Qualitative Health Research

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3805
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 6043
  • Address: Institute of Health and Society
    Baddiley Clark Building
    Richardson Road
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE2 4AX


I am a medical sociologist and an experienced qualitative health researcher committed to delivering both high quality research and education.  My research is concerned with understanding people's health and illness experiences throughout the lifecourse and spans a range of clinical areas. I provide a social science perspective and methodological expertise to clinical research questions, postgraduate research supervision and postgraduate and undergraduate teaching.

Roles and Responsibilities

I am the Institute of Health and Society's Head of Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

I lead IHS Medical Sociology discipline group and the British Sociological Association Special Interest Group in Applied Qualitative Health Research

I am a member of:


1998 PhD (Sociology) Coventry University "Living with Cancer, Living with Dying"
1993 MA Health Services Studies, University of Leeds
1992 BSc(Hons) Sociology, University of Salford 

 Previous Positions

2009-2014 Senior Lecturer in Medical Sociology, IHS, Newcastle University

2003-2009 Lecturer in Medical Sociology, IHS, Newcastle University

1999-2003  Lecturer, Dept Epidemiology and Public Health, Leicester University

1998 -1999 Lecturer, Dept Primary Care, Birmingham University

1997 - 1998 Research Associate, Dept Primary Care, Leicester University



Undergraduate Teaching

I have delivered and led social science teaching to undergraduate medical students in three UK Universities for over 10 years. I led the social science component of the MBBS at Newcastle from 2003 - 2009, and I remain a regular contributor to this course.

Postgraduate Teaching

I am actively involved in the design, delivery and assessment of Master level teaching and learning.

I am the module leader for the Introduction to Qualitative Methods module and contribute to Health and Society and Further Qualitative Methods modules which are part of the MSc in Public Health and Health Services Research and MSc in Social Sciences and Health Research.

I also teach qualitative methods on the MSc in Psychology (Foundations in Clinical and Health Psychology)

I supervise MSc dissertations and welcome enquiries from Masters students regarding possible projects.

I lead the CPD course Qualitative Interviews: from design to publication

I am external examiner for the MSc in Public Health, Glasgow University

Research Interests

My research is concerned with examining critically people's - patients and carers - experiences and decisions about health and health care, and finding ways to improve and enhance these.  As a medical sociologist I work within multidisciplinary research teams, often providing qualitative methodological expertise. My work focuses on those living with chronic disease, and spans a range of clinical areas such as: palliative care, transplantation research, old age psychiatry, primary care medicine and oral health care.

Currently, I am collaborating with colleagues in the Institute of Transplantation on a number of research projects and lead the qualitative evaluation of DEVELOP-UK, led by  Professor Andrew Fisher. With Prof Richard Thomson, I am leading a qualitative study to examine the decision making related to implantation and deactivation of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators. I am the co-investigator on a recently funded NIHR Programme Grant, led by Professor Louise Robinson, Supporting Excellence in End of Life care in Dementia. 

Postgraduate Supervision

I am committed to supporting postgraduate research and I have an excellent record of success.

From 2009 -2012 I was IHS Postgraduate Research Student Coordinator, and until 2013 I led the North East ESRC Doctoral Training Centre's Social Science and Health Pathway.

I supervise postgraduate research students from both social science and clinical backgrounds.  

Previous Supervision 

  • 2014 David Hamilton, PhD, NIHR Doctoral Fellow, IHS, Newcastle University
  • 2013 Rachel Green, PhD Dental Sciences, Newcastle University
  • 2013 Katie Frew, PhD Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University 
  • 2012 Stephanie O’Neill, PhD, ESRC Studentship, IHS, Newcastle University
  • 2012 Richard Holmes PhD, NIHR Doctoral Fellow, Dental Sciences/IHS, Newcastle University
  • 2011 Joanne Lally PhD, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University 
  • 2010 Ben Heaven PhD, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University
  • 2009 Ines Polzer MPhil, Dental Sciences, Newcastle University
  • 2008 Justin Durham PhD, Dental Sciences, Newcastle University

Current Doctoral Supervision: 

  • Fiona MacCormick, Teaching Research Fellow, IHS, Newcastle University
  • Stephanie Mulrine, Teesside University
  • Rhiannon O'Connor, NIHR Doctoral Fellow, Dental Sciences/IHS, Newcastle University
  • Rebecca Patterson, ESRC Doctoral Student, IHS, Newcastle University
  • Rebecca Say, NIHR Doctoral Fellow, IHS, Newcastle University
  • Jenni Remnant, ESRC Doctoral Student, IHS, Newcastle University
  • Holly Standing, IHS, Newcastle University 
  • Susie Wong, NIHR Doctoral Fellow, IHS. Newcastle University

Esteem Indicators 

2013 -  Convenor British Sociological Aassociation Applied Qualitative Health Research, Special Interest Group

2013 - Member of Irish Health Services Research Board Grant Awarding Panel

2013 – Invited panel member North East BSA Medical Sociology Group

2011 - Invited external speaker to SCHARR Seminar Series, Sheffield University

2009 - Invited key note speaker British Society Study of Prosthetic Dentistry conference, York 

2009 - Invited external speaker to Leeds Dental Institute Seminar Series

2006-2010 - Member of MRC College of Experts

2003-2005 - Co-convenor British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Group

Current Research and Funding

NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research   Promoting Effective and Rapid Stroke Care (PEARS) PI Prof Gary Ford Co-investigator Qualitative lead

NIHR North East Research Design Service PI Prof Luke Vale Co-investigator Qualitative lead

NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research - Supporting Excellence in End of Life Care in Dementia PI Prof L Robinson Co-investigator and qualitative lead

NIHR Health Services &  Delivery Research Decision making about implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) and subsequent deactivation during end of life care Co-lead with Prof R Thomson

NIHR Health Technology Assessment DEVELOP UK A study of donor ex-vivo lung perfusion in UK Lung Transplantation Co-investigator and lead of qualitative workpackage PI Prof A Fisher   

NIHR Doctoral Fellowship Engaging women in shared decision making about breech presentation at term: development, usability testing and a pilot trial of decision support and a decision quality instrument. With Prof R Thomson & Prof S Robson Fellow: Dr Beccy Say