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Institute of Population Health Sciences (IPHS)

Professor Deborah Swinglehurst, MBBS MA MSc PhD FHEA FRCGP


Professor of Primary Care, NIHR Clinician Scientist

Telephone: 020 7882 7204


I am a General Practitioner and primary care researcher, combining my academic role with working as a GP in rural Suffolk. My research explores interfaces between medicine, social science and linguistics and focuses on the role of interaction and social relationships in primary health care settings.

I gained my first degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1990, qualified as a doctor at Imperial College London in 1993, and became a GP in 1998. I completed my postgraduate studies at UCL (MSc) and QMUL (PhD).

My research explores a range of generalist concerns including: the role of information technologies in practice; quality and safety of repeat prescribing; multimorbidity, polypharmacy and medicines optimisation; medical overuse; the meaning of ‘quality’ in health care; how health policies shape practice; patient and professional experiences of health care. I bring a scholarly lens to the work done by practitioners and patients as they navigate the complexities of health care, and I seek to develop ‘practice-based’ evidence for clinicians, students and policymakers.

I am Deputy Director of the Unit for Complex Intervention and Social Practice in Health Care, lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers, supervise PhD students and am graduate tutor for the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health. I am also QMUL lead for Pathway 1 (Health Practices, Innovation and Implementation) of the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Programme. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

In 2019 I received the RCGP/SAPC John Fry Award for my contribution to the discipline of general practice through research.


Centre:  Centre for Primary Care and Public Health.


I have extensive teaching experience including 3 years as Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia involved in community based teaching of medical undergraduates and 6 years as a tutor at UCL on an online MSc in International Primary Health Care.

More recently I have been involved in teaching on the QMUL BSc/MSc programmes in Global Health, including MSc project supervision and I do regular MBBS medical undergraduate teaching as a PBL tutor. 


Research Interests:

I am Principal Investigator on the APOLLO-MM project (Addressing the polypharmacy challenge in older people with multimorbidity). This is an in-depth ethnographic case study of patients’ and professionals’ experiences and practices of polypharmacy and adopts mixed qualitative methods. It is funded by the National Institute of Health Research through a Clinician Scientist Award. In addition I am working with my research team on a range of qualitative research projects in the area of polypharmacy and multimorbidity including: the experiences of Pakistani patients affected by multimorbidity and polypharmacy; medicines as emotional objects; medicines optimisation in patients with dementia; the role of informal carers in caring for patients affected by multimorbidity and polypharmacy.

My work involves a range of qualitative approaches including ethnography and linguistic ethnography, discourse analysis, narrative approaches, video-reflexive ethnography.

Previous completed research include: experiences of online consultation systems in general practice; facilitating new forms of ‘knowledge’ in contemporary life sciences; the role of computer templates in shaping chronic disease management; the role of receptionists in upholding quality and safety of repeat prescribing in general practice; a study of ‘back office’ coding work in general practice and its contribution to quality of care; displays of authority in IT-mediated clinical consultations; professional resistance to nationally mandated IT programmes; rationing of ‘low value’ treatments in the NHS; what ‘timeliness’ means to GPs when engaged in the diagnosis of dementia; case study of a community Trust response to the ‘Any Qualified Provider’ policy.



View all Deborah Swinglehurst's Research Publications


I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students who wish to conduct research in my areas of interest.


Danniella Samos (QMUL; ESRC funded): The ‘War on the Obesity Epidemic’: Metaphorical framings of obesity in different text types


Jessica Potter (QMUL; MRC funded): Tuberculosis: An exclusionary politics of care


Meredith Hawking (QMUL; NIHR funded): A narrative exploration of medicine taking and illness experience amongst patients with atrial fibrillation taking direct oral anticoagulants


Jackie Walumbe (University of Oxford; NIHR funded): Supporting successful self-management strategies for people living with chronic pain