From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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Staff Member Biography

Sharon Simpson

Sharon Simpsonposition: Research Fellow

Contact Details

phone: 0141 353 7500 (Switchboard)


MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit,
University of Glasgow,
Top floor,
200, Renfield Street
G2 3QB

Biography and Interests

Sharon is a Senior Research Fellow in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. Her main research interests lie in the areas of obesity, mental health and behaviour change in particular the maintenance of behaviour change. She has methodological interests in randomised controlled trials and in the development and evaluation of complex interventions, as well as mixed methods approaches (using quantitative and qualitative research methods) and process evaluation. She is also interested in the design and delivery of interventions via the web and new technologies.

She is currently undertaking a 5 year MRC/University of Glasgow Senior Fellowship. The fellowship will focus on two areas: 1) the physical health of people with mental health problems, particularly bipolar disorder and their families, with a focus on behaviours that contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity and 2) work with young, lower SES, obese or overweight pregnant women and their families. Key aims of the fellowship are: 1) to gain a greater understanding of social support and how it can facilitate behaviour change and to develop theory around issues like which kind of people benefit from which kinds of social support, who from and how support is best promoted; 2) to develop and test interventions which seek to harness social support and SOCIAL networks to help initiate and maintain behaviour change in these groups and 3) to explore how technology can be used to facilitate this.

She is Chief Investigator of 2 NIHR funded trials (Health Technology Assessment and Public Health Research Board) and one National Prevention Research Initiative trial. The HTA trial is a 3.5 year study which evaluated a motivational interviewing (MI) based intervention for maintenance of weight loss in adults. The PHR study is a 30 month feasibility trial which will develop and test the feasibility of an intervention to promote health behaviour change employing three key facilitators: goal setting, monitoring, and social support, using web and SMS technologies. The NPRI funded trial is a four year evaluation of a group based intervention for obese pregnant women. She is also co-investigator on a number of other trials and studies (see below).

In her previous post 2001-2014 she was Associate Director within the South East Wales Trials Unit ( SEWTU), where she was theme lead focussing on behaviour change. She worked jointly between SEWTU and the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Intervention for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), a UKCRC Public Health Centre of Excellence, where she was part of the management team and led on the priority area 'Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet'. She was Deputy Chair of the Research Design and Conduct Service within the trials unit and SEWTU lead on the Public Health Improvement Research Network (PHIRN) partnership board.



Copeland L, McNamara R, Kelson M, Simpson SA. Mechanisms of change within motivational interviewing in relation to health behaviors: a systematic review. Patient Education and Counselling 2015;98:401–411

Randell E, Pickles T, Simpson S, Spanou C, McCambridge J, Hood K, Butler C. Eligibility for interventions, co-occurrence and risk factors for unhealthy behaviours in patients consulting for routine primary care: results from the Pre-Empt study. BMC Family Practice 2015;16:133

open access  

Simpson SA, McNamara R, Shaw C, Kelson M, Moriarty Y, Randell E, Cohen D, Alam MF, Copeland L, Duncan D, Espinasse A, Gillespie D, Hill A, Owen-Jones E, Tapper K, Townson J, Williams S, Hood K. A feasibility randomised controlled trial of a motivational interviewing-based intervention for weight loss maintenance in adults. Health Technology Assessment 2015;19:1-378

open access  


Dawes H, Collett J, Debono K, Quinn L, Jones K, Kelson MJ, Simpson SA, Playle R, Backx K, Wasley D, Nemeth AH, Rosser A, Izardi H, Busse M. Exercise testing and training in people with Huntington’s disease. Clinical Rehabilitation 2014

Jewell K, Avery A, Barber J, Simpson S. The healthy eating and lifestyle in pregnancy (HELP) feasibility study. British Journal of Midwifery 2014;22:727-736

John E, Cassidy DM, Playle R, Jewell K, Cohen D, Duncan D, Newcombe RG, Busse M, Owen-Jones E, Williams N, Longo M, Avery A, Simpson SA. Healthy eating and lifestyle in pregnancy (HELP): a protocol for a cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a weight management intervention in pregnancy. BMC Public Health 2014;14

Sniehotta FF, Simpson SA, Greaves CJ. Weight loss maintenance: An agenda for health psychology. British Journal of Health Psychology 2014;19:459-464


Busse M, Quinn L, Debono K, Jones K, Collett J, Playle R, Kelly M, Simpson S, Backx K, Wasley D, Dawes H, Rosser A, Commet-Hd Management GrOUp . A Randomized Feasibility Study of a 12-Week Community-Based Exercise Program for People With Huntington's Disease. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy 2013;37:149-158

Butler CC, Simpson SA, Hood K, Cohen D, Pickles T, Spanou C, McCambridge J, Moore L, Randell E, Alam MF. Training practitioners to deliver opportunistic multiple behaviour change counselling in primary care: a cluster randomised trial. BMJ 2013;346:f1191

pubmed  open access  

Francis NA, Phillips R, Wood F, Hood K, Simpson S, Butler CC. Parents' and clinicians' views of an interactive booklet about respiratory tract infections in children: a qualitative process evaluation of the EQUIP randomised controlled trial. Bmc Family Practice 2013;14


Butler CC, Simpson SA, Dunstan F, Rollnick S, Cohen D, Gillespie D, Evans MR, Alam MF, Bekkers MJ, Evans J, Moore L, Howe R, Hayes J, Hare M, Hood K. Effectiveness of multifaceted educational programme to reduce antibiotic dispensing in primary care: practice based randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2012;344

Phillips K, Wood F, Spanou C, Kinnersley P, Simpson SA, Butler CC, Pre-Empt Team . Counselling patients about behaviour change: the challenge of talking about diet. British Journal of General Practice 2012;62

Poole R, Simpson SA, Smith DJ. Internet-based psychoeducation for bipolar disorder: a qualitative analysis of feasibility, acceptability and impact. Bmc Psychiatry 2012;12


Barnes E, Simpson S, Griffiths E, Hood K, Craddock N, Smith DJ. Developing an online psychoeducation package for bipolar disorder. Journal of Mental Health 2011;20:21-31

Simpson SA, Lewis R, van der Voort J, Butler CC. Oral or topical nasal steroids for hearing loss associated with otitis media with effusion in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011

Simpson SA, Shaw C, McNamara R. What is the most effective way to maintain weight loss in adults?. BMJ 2011;343:(28 December 2011)

Smith DJ, Griffiths E, Kelly M, Hood K, Craddock N, Simpson SA. Unrecognised bipolar disorder in primary care patients with depression. British Journal of Psychiatry 2011;199:49-56

Smith DJ, Griffiths E, Poole R, di Florio A, Barnes E, Kelly MJ, Craddock N, Hood K, Simpson S. Beating Bipolar: exploratory trial of a novel internet-based psychoeducational treatment for bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorders 2011;13:571-577


Bekkers M-J, Simpson SA, Dunstan F, Hood K, Hare M, Evans J, Butler CC, Star Study Team . Enhancing the quality of antibiotic prescribing in Primary Care: Qualitative evaluation of a blended learning intervention. BMC Family Practice 2010;11

Smith D, Jones I, Simpson S. Psychoeducation for bipolar disorder. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2010;16:147-154

Smith DJ, Thapar A, Simpson S. Bipolar spectrum disorders in primary care: optimising diagnosis and treatment. British Journal of General Practice 2010;60:322-324

Spanou C, Simpson SA, Hood K, Edwards A, Cohen D, Rollnick S, Carter B, McCambridge J, Moore L, Randell E. Preventing disease through opportunistic, rapid engagement by primary care teams using behaviour change counselling (PRE-EMPT): protocol for a general practice-based cluster randomised trial. BMC family practice 2010;11:69

pubmed  open access  

Wood F, Simpson S, Barnes E, Hain R. Disease trajectories and ACT/RCPCH categories in paediatric palliative care. Palliative Medicine 2010;24:796-806


Francis NA, Butler CC, Hood K, Simpson S, Wood F, Nuttall J. Effect of using an interactive booklet about childhood respiratory tract infections in primary care consultations on reconsulting and antibiotic prescribing: a cluster randomised controlled trial. 2009.

Francis NA, Butler CC, Hood K, Simpson S, Wood F, Nuttall J. Effect of using an interactive booklet about childhood respiratory tract infections in primary care consultations on reconsulting and antibiotic prescribing: a cluster randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2009;339

Simpson SA, Butler CC, Hood K, Cohen D, Dunstan F, Evans MR, Rollnick S, Moore L, Hare M, Bekkers M-J. Stemming the Tide of Antibiotic Resistance (STAR): a protocol for a trial of a complex intervention addressing the 'why' and 'how' of appropriate antibiotic prescribing in general practice. BMC Family Practice 2009;10:20

open access  


Butler CC, Simpson S, Wood F. General practitioners' perceptions of introducing near-patient testing for common infections into routine primary care: A qualitative study. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care 2008;26:17-21

Francis N, Wood F, Simpson S, Hood K, Butler CC. Developing an ‘interactive’ booklet on respiratory tract infections in children for use in primary care consultations. Patient Education and Counseling 2008;73:286-293


O'Brien K, Hillier S, Simpson S, Hood K, Butler Ch. An observational study of empirical antibiotics for adult women with uncomplicated UTI in general practice. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2007;59:1200-1203

Simpson SA, Thomas CL, van der Linden MK, MacMillan H, van der Wouden JC, Butler C. Identification of children in the first four years of life for early treatment for otitis media with effusion. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007

Simpson SA, Wood F, Butler CC. General practitioners' perceptions of antimicrobial resistance: a qualitative study. The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy 2007;59:292-6

Wood F, Simpson S, Butler CC. Socially responsible antibiotic choices in primary care: a qualitative study of GPs' decisions to prescribe broad-spectrum and fluroquinolone antibiotics. Family Practice 2007;24:427-434


Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. A community based investigation of the association between cannabis use, injuries and accidents. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2006;20:5-13

Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. Cannabis use, cognitive performance and mood in a sample of workers. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2006;20:14-23


Corney R, Simpson S. Thirty-six month outcome data from a trial of counselling with chronically depressed patients in a general practice setting. Psychology and Psychotherapy-Theory Research and Practice 2005;78:127-138

Simpson S. , Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Smith AP. Minor injuries, cognitive failures and accidents at work: incidence and associated features. Occupational Medicine-Oxford 2005;55:99-108

Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. Psychotropic medication use and accidents, injuries and cognitive failures. Human Psychopharmacology-Clinical and Experimental 2005;20:391-400

Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. SSRIs and cognitive performance in a working sample. Human Psychopharmacology-Clinical and Experimental 2005;20:561-572


Butler CC, Evans M, Greaves D, Simpson S. Medically unexplained symptoms: the biopsychosocial model found wanting. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2004;97:219-222

Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. Factors associated with recreational drug use. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2004;18:238-248

Wadsworth EJK, Simpson SA, Moss SC, Smith AP. Recreational drug use: patterns from a South Wales self-report survey. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2004;18:228-237


Bower P, Byford S, Barber J, Beecham J, Simpson S, Friedli K, Corney R, King M, Harvey I. Meta-analysis of data on costs from trials of counselling in primary care: using individual patient data to overcome sample size limitations in economic analyses. British Medical Journal 2003;326:1247-1250

Simpson S, Corney R, Fitzgerald P, Beecham J. A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of psychodynamic counselling for general practice patients with chronic depression. Psychological Medicine 2003;33:229-239

Simpson S, Corney R, Fitzgerald P. Counselling provision, prescribing and referral rates in a general practice setting. Primary Care Psychiatry 2003;8:115-119

Wadsworth EJK, Moss SC, Simpson SA, Smith AP. Preliminary investigation of the association between psychotropic medication use and accidents, minor injuries and cognitive failures. Human Psychopharmacology-Clinical and Experimental 2003;18:535-540

Wadsworth EJK, Simpson SA, Moss SC, Smith AP. The Bristol Stress and Health Study: accidents, minor injuries and cognitive failures at work. Occupational Medicine-Oxford 2003;53:392-397


Simpson S, Corney R, Fitzgerald P, Beecham J. A randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of counselling patients with chronic depression. Health Technology Assessment 2000;4:83


Simpson SA, Gilhooly KJ. Diagnostic thinking processes: Evidence from a constructive interaction study of electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation. Applied Cognitive Psychology 1997;11:543-554


Wood F, Palmer J, Ellis D, Simpson S, Bacigalupo R. Information in primary health care. Health libraries review 1995;12:295-308