Greenwich researcher named among Nation's Lifesavers


Nurse. Researcher. Pioneer. Lesley Dibley gives a voice to a marginalised group and has changed the way doctors talk to patients with inflammatory bowel disease

A researcher from the University of Greenwich has today been recognised for her exceptional contribution to keeping the nation healthy.

Dr Lesley Dibley from the university's Department of Adult Nursing and Paramedic Science is one of the Nation's Lifesavers – the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

The lifesavers have been named for the first time today as part of Universities UK's MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.

Lesley's research looked at inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – a chronic, incurable illness which affects around 300,000 people in the UK.

Fatigue, pain and bowel urgency are common symptoms, and stoma surgery, where a small opening on the surface of the abdomen diverts the flow of faeces, may be required. Although associated with better outcomes many patients endure a poor quality of life to avoid this surgery.

Lesley's pioneering research explored patients' and clinicians' views and her qualitative, insightful analysis is changing the way this illness is managed.  

Lesley said: "These illnesses have a distinct and often negative impact on people, whose experiences and voices are often unheard. I am proud that the research I do focuses on these hidden groups, and makes a difference to peoples' ability to live well with their chronic illness. 

"As a team, we're grateful for the support we have received from Crohn's & Colitis UK, who funded the study, and the many patients who took part and helped us show that life after stoma surgery is often very much better than people expect it will be. We now know how to improve clinical care to give the patient a better experience, and help them make a fully informed decision about stoma surgery."

Dr Laura Hancock, a colorectal surgeon at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This pioneering research demonstrates that the dialogue between the patient and the clinical team is essential for informed decision-making when considering stoma surgery.

"We are already starting to see the impact of this in our everyday practice. Surgery is discussed earlier as a treatment option rather than a last resort and colorectal surgeons are providing more information about the risks, benefits, goals, outcomes and alternatives."  

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President Universities UK, said: "When people think of lifesavers they tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities.

"Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

"By proudly working in partnership with charities, the NHS and healthcare organisations, universities are responsible for some of our biggest health breakthroughs and in revolutionising the delivery of care.

"This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to the nation."

Research shows the public are proud of UK universities but have little understanding of the benefits they bring, with most not being aware that UK academics are behind many of the discoveries that save lives and keep us healthy.

The MadeAtUni campaign gives the public an insight into some of this work and celebrates those who made it happen.

Find out more information on the campaign on UUK's campaign website and watch a film of Lesley talking about her research here.