Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

Staff Profile

Professor Helen Foster

Strategic Research Adviser



Helen graduated from Newcastle University medical school in 1985 and then trained in adult medicine, adult rheumatology and subsequently general paediatrics and paediatric rheumatology with a clinical fellowship in Vancouver, Canada.She has worked in the National Health Service (NHS) UK since 1985 and as a Consultant since 1995 at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Helen was appointed as Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Rheumatology 2001 at Newcastle University and awarded a Personal Chair in 2008.

She is champion of best practice and advocate for 'right care'. She has represented paediatric rheumatology at a national and international level to develop and implement changes in clinical practice, training and research. In various national roles she led change in clinical care delivery and training across the UK, NHS England Specialist Commissioning in paediatric rheumatology and the development of European Recommendations for Transitional care. She contributed to NICE guidance on biologics in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, NICE guidance with ‘Rightpath’ ( as a validated community based model of musculoskeletal (MSK) triage in the community.

She is member of the WHO Expert Panel for MSK health (2021), contributed to WHO guidance (Chronic pain 2020) and proposals to change the WHO Essentials Medicine List for Joint Diseases (2020). Her academic work focuses on working with stakeholders to address the challenges in an evidence based way. Key achievements include novel clinical tools (pGALS, pREMS) widely embedded in clinical education and e-resources ( targeting medical students, community care and general paediatricians around the world.

Helen worked at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia 2018-2020 and set up the Paediatric Global MSK Task Force with a ‘call to action’ to promote better MSK health for all children. She returned to the UK from Malaysia in October 2020 and was appointed as University Strategic Research Advisor in November 2020 to focus on global health and international collaborations working with charities to instigate and lobby for equity and change.  

Current Roles and Responsibilities

Strategic Research Advisor Newcastle University 

Founder and Chair Paediatric Global Musculoskeletal Task Force

Founder and Editor Paediatric Musculoskeletal Matters Portfolio

Member of Expert Review Panel World Health Organisation Musculoskeletal Health

Advisor Public Health England Musculoskeletal Framework

Advisor to Versus Arthritis Charity - paediatric musculoskeletal matters and educational resources

Pediatric Rheumatology Online Journal Editorial Board

Honorary Consultant Great North Children's Hospital, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK

Honours and Awards

Fellow Royal College Paediatrics and Child Health 1997

Fellow Royal College Physicians 2000

Barbara Ansell Medal Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology British Society for Rheumatology 2018 

British Society for Rheumatology Best Model of Practice 2018:  'Rightpath' (Paediatric Musculoskeletal Triage in the community) in partnership with Pennine MSK and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

Innovation in Rheumatology - National Educational Research Award 2007 (for work towards pGALS as a novel clinical tool for joint examination in children)

National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society 'Patient in Focus' Award - Independence weekends for adolescents with rheumatic disease awarded to Newcastle paediatric rheumatology team - 2005

Academic secretary

Janet Herdman


Research Interests

Our work aims to improve access to care for children with musculoskeletal problems; to identify, describe and understand the barriers and drivers to care and through evidence based strategy, proposals to address unmet need. Our work has contributed to education and training of the workforce, standards of care, models of practice and NICE guidance.

Key Interventions include:

  • Novel evidence based educational resources targeting all health care professionals involved in care pathways for children - pGALS, pREMS and the PMM Portfolio.
  • Models of care in the community to facilitate earlier diagnosis and access to specialist care - RightPath, pGALSplus 
  • Impact and reach of e-technologies - PMM Portfolio (website, apps and e-modules) and telemedicine.
  • The WHO Essential Medicines List for Joint Diseases in children to facilitate access to treatments.

Our work has progressed to the wider health care context, in partnership together with stakeholders from low and middle resource income countries around the world with efforts to raise awareness, workforce capacity build and lobbying for change through policy and guidelines. 

Our work has been funded from grants and unrestricted educational bursaries and our research is driven by a motivated multi-professional interdisciplinary team who share a vision of working better together. 


Helen has extensive clinical teaching experience, mentoring and support for medical students and postgraduate trainees in primary care, general paediatrics and sub-specialist training. Her body of work has led to novel e-resources to promote teaching and learning about paediatric musculoskeletal medicine targeting medical / nursing students, trainees in primary care and paediatrics and clinicians in allied health and nursing. She developed pGALS as a validated musculoskeletal examination tool which is widely taught around the world and facilitated through multiple language translations.
As Founder and Editor of Paediatric Musculoskeletal Matters (PMM) - the  body of work has grown as a collaborative effort with global partners and latterly with the Paediatric Global Musculoskeletal Task Force to raise awareness, facilitate early diagnosis and access to 'right' care.  The PMM Portfolio is free and comprises evidence based e-resources including the PMM website, pGALS app and e-modules. PMM is endorsed by the Royal College Paediatrics and Child Health, Paediatric Rheumatology European Society, Royal College of Nursing and is NICE approved.
As lead of the RCPCH College Specialist Advisory Committee, Helen was involved in the development of the Competency Framework for paediatric rheumatology training in the UK and inclusion of musculoskeletal competences for all paediatricians. 
As UK representative for the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society Education and Training Committee (ETC), she worked to develop standards and curricula for training in Europe. Ongoing collaboration with the ETC focuses on initiatives to  support and facilitate workforce capacity building in low and middle resource income through collaboration and partnership.
As a member of the World Forum on Medical Education in Rheumatology Helen has worked to promote inclusion of paediatrics musculoskeletal health in undergraduate and postgraduate curricula.