Professor Natalie Armstrong

Natalie Armstrong 2019

Professor of Healthcare Improvement Research & Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellow

Social Science Applied to Healthcare Improvement Research (SAPPHIRE) Group

Department of Health Sciences
University of Leicester
George Davies Centre
University Road
Leicester, LE1 7RH

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3197

Twitter: @drnatarmstrong

    Personal details

    A Professor of Healthcare Improvement Research, Natalie is a graduate of the Universities of Warwick (BA), London (MSc), and Nottingham (PhD). A medical sociologist by background, her work uses sociological ideas and methods to understand health and illness and to tackle problems in the delivery of high-quality healthcare. Following postdoctoral positions at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Warwick, Natalie took up her first academic post in 2008 as Lecturer in Social Science Applied to Health at the University of Leicester. She has remained here ever since, being promoted to Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor in 2014 and to Professor of Healthcare Improvement Research in 2017.

    Natalie was the joint lead of the SAPPHIRE Research Group from 2016-2018, and then Head of Department of Health Sciences from 2018-2021. She is the Implementation Theme Lead for the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands and Co-Director and Theme Lead for the Wellcome Trust PhD Programme in Genomic Epidemiology and Public Health Genomics.

    Natalie’s work covers a number of healthcare topics, although she has a long-standing special interest in women’s and children’s health and in preventative healthcare. While originally trained in sociology departments, Natalie has worked ever since in health sciences environments and is committed to applied research and the practical impact of social science learning within healthcare and healthcare improvement.

    This development culminates in the prestigious Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellowship, which Natalie took up in March 2017. Natalie is using her fellowship to apply relevant social science theory to the topic of overdiagnosis, by investigating the potential for system change to mitigate overdiagnosis and overtreatment within the UK health system, and how this can be balanced with interventions to prevent under-treatment.

    Natalie’s established commitment to seeing research evidence put into practice is also evident in the nine months she spent working with the health policy team in the Strategy Unit of the Cabinet Office as part of the ESRC’s Knowledge Transfer programme. She says: “The experience enabled me to understand more clearly how to engage with policymakers most effectively as an academic. Simply sending them published journal articles is no good – they want clear, practical recommendations on what to do about an issue.”

    In addition to her Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellowship, Natalie is also currently the qualitative lead on the OPTI-PREM study, which aims to assess whether care in a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or care in a LNU (Local Neonatal Unit) results in better outcomes for babies born at 27-31 weeks. Natalie has recently led an evaluation of the feasibility of using the Patient Activation Measure in the NHS in England and, slightly longer ago, an evaluation of the NHS Safety Thermometer. She was also the qualitative lead on a recently completed project looking at options for the treatment of recurrent stress urinary incontinence.

    Natalie has served on numerous committees and advisory boards, including until recently the Research Advisory Committee for the charity Wellbeing of Women and the East Midlands Regional Committee for the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Natalie is an associate editor at both the journals BMJ Quality and Safety and Family Practice, and was chosen (together with her colleague Dr Helen Eborall) by the journal Sociology of Health and Illness to edit a special issue, The Sociology of Medical Screening: Critical Perspectives, New Directions. Natalie says: “The work published on the topic at that stage was very fragmented. By drawing it all together and commissioning some new papers, we could take stock of what we knew in the area and identify priorities for future research.”


    Twitter: @drnatarmstrong

    Current projects

NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research
Co-Investigator with J Mant et al.
Oct 2018 - Sept 2026

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity (SANDS)
Co-Investigator with N Mackintosh et al.
Jan 2019 - Dec 2019

  • Independent Evaluation of the Feasibility of Using the Patient Activation Measure in the NHS in England
    The Health Foundation / NHS England
    Principal Investigator with C Tarrant, G Martin and B Manktelow. 
    Nov 2014 – Feb 2017
  • Surgery for recurrent stress urinary incontinence: surgeons’ and women’s views.
    Wellbeing of Women
    Co-Investigator (Qualitative Lead) with D Tincello, P Hilton, B Buckley and C Mayne. 
    Aug 2014 - Sep 2015
  • Evaluation of NHS Safety Thermometer Data Collection and Use.
    NHS England via Haelo
    Principal Investigator with M Dixon-Woods and C Tarrant
    Jan 2013 - March 2015
  • LungPATH Qualitative Work: an exploration of the facilitators and barriers to achieving a high level histological confirmation rate in lung cancer.
    Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust / Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership
    Principal Investigator with G Martin and S Wallace. 
    Sept 2012 - Jan 2013.
  • Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness, Symposium: The Sociology of Medical Screening - Critical Perspectives, New Directions
    Principal Investigator with H Eborall. 
    May - Oct 2012.
  • Evaluation of Participation in the Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes Project
    Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes Project (ILCOP) / Royal College of Physicians 
    Principal Investigator with M Dixon-Woods and G Martin
    Jan - June 2012
  • The Hidden Risks of Preterm Birth: How Should We Follow-up Vulnerable Babies?
    NIHR Research for Patient Benefit 
    Co-Investigator (Qualitative Lead) with E Boyle, S Johnson, S Petrou, B Manktelow and D Wolke. 
    Nov 2011 - August 2013.
  • INVESTIGATE - I (INVasive Evaluation before Surgical Treatment for Incontinence Gives Added Therapeutic Effect?): a pragmatic multicentre pilot study to assess the feasibility of a future randomised controlled trial
    NIHR Health Technology Assessment
    Co-Investigator (Qualitative Lead) with P Hilton, E McColl, D Howel, M Deverill, B Buckley, M Lucas, C Chapple and D Tincello
    Jan 2011 - Sept 2013
  • Evaluation of the Health Foundation's Closing the Gap Through Clinical Communities (CTGTCC) Awards
    Health Foundation
    Co-Investigator with M Dixon-Woods, G Martin and J Banerjee
    June 2010 - June 2012
  • NIHR Research for Patient Benefit, High Or Low Dose Oxytocin Study (HOLDS) - a pilot
    Co-Investigator (qualitative lead) with S Kenyon, D Jones, C Markham, S Petrou, S Walkinshaw and J Waugh June 2010 - April 2012
  • ESRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship with Strategy Unit
    Cabinet Office 
    April - December 2009
  • NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation, Evaluation of Intermediate Care Clinics for Diabetes
    Co-Investigator (Qualitative Lead) with A Wilson et al
    April 2006 - September 2011

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Department of Health Sciences
University of Leicester
George Davies Centre
University Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 3211

Head of Department:
Prof. Natalie Armstrong

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