Dr Mark Pearson


Reader in Implementation Science

Role at Hull York Medical School

I research and teach on how to get the best of what we know delivered in routine practice, with a focus on palliative care & advanced illness and its intersections with the wider health and social care system. Seeing research and practice as intrinsically interlinked, my teaching and supervision develops practitioner and researcher mobility across disciplines and sectors so that knowledge travels to where it is needed. I have a particular interest in the application and methodological development of Realist research and other approaches that work with complexity.

I am Programme Co-Director for the PGCert/PGDip/MSc Palliative Care: Implementing Best Practice, supervise undergraduate and postgraduate (PhD) students, Chair PhD advisory panels, and lead workshops to develop researchers’ and practitioners’ skills in Implementation Science.


I worked clinically as an Adult Nurse in acute medicine, rehabilitation, and medical oncology, before moving to social science research via an interlude exploring livelihoods in Northern Nigeria. My jump from practice to research was motivated by a desire to understand, and change, the many things that stop knowledge being used to inform practice.

My ESRC-funded doctorate investigated how knowledge was identified and used in Public Health guideline development at the (as it then was) National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE), challenging the view that only certain, narrowly-defined forms of evidence inform guideline development. Subsequently, my research career at University of Exeter Medical School and NIHR CLAHRC for the southwest peninsula (PenCLAHRC) has been applied (conducting systematic reviews to inform Public Health guideline development), methodological (developing realist synthesis for explaining implementation challenges), and developmental (engaging stakeholders in thinking through implementation questions and how research can help).

Critically applying Implementation Science has meant crossing conventional sectoral boundaries, with my research including covering diverse areas such as offenders’ mental health, health promotion in schools, and intermediate care. Working in this way gives rise to challenges that are not unlike those that ethnographers encounter where they are simultaneously an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’. Embracing this insider/outsider tension enables me to bring a distinct perspective.

Since joining the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre at Hull York Medical School in 2017, I have developed a programme of research in Implementation Science at the interfaces of health and social care relating to palliative care and advanced illness. Working in both effectiveness and theory-based paradigms, I have led studies and/or provided distinct implementation methods for research into the implementation of delirium management guidelines, breathlessness management, person-centred outcome measures, medicines optimisation, exercise programmes, and workforce wellbeing.

Latterly, my work has turned towards directly informing policy through my role in the NIHR Policy Research Unit for Palliative and End of Life Care (with King’s College London) and developing local authority capacity to conduct and use research through the NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaboration North Yorkshire (co-led with North Yorkshire Council).


I am a social scientist using theory-driven methods (in particular, Realist approaches) to conduct collaborative implementation research for intervention design and evaluation across health and social care, in particular palliative care.

Funded research projects

2024-2028 Pearson, M. & Needham, K., Murphy, R., Wood, J., Ling, R., Webb, R., Murtagh, F., Cook, J., Twiddy, M., Weatherly, H., Lorch, M. North Yorkshire Health Determinants Research Collaboration. NIHR Public Health Research. £5,050,482 (Co-Chief Investigator)

2024-2026 Sleeman, K., Murtagh, F., Higginson, I., Preston, N., Ziegler, L., Mitchell, S., Barclay, S., Cohen, J., Pearson, M., Kumar, R., Johnson, M. & May, P. NIHR Policy Research Unit for Palliative and End of Life Care. £2,999,938 (Co-Investigator)

2024-2026 Hutchinson, A., Crooks, M., Wright, C., Huang, C., Cohen, J., Pearson, M., Johnson, M., Hart, S. BREEZE 2: A randomised controlled trial of a complex intervention to manage breathlessness in pulmonary fibrosis. NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Award 206252 £499,973 (Co-Investigator)

2023-2024 Pearson, M., Swan, F., Hutchinson, A., Sartain, K. & Johnson, M. Living well with chronic breathlessness: Improving the sustained use of supported self-management strategies. NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Award 204312 £153,495 (Chief Investigator)

2023-2025 Crooks, M., Johnson, M., Swan, F., Hutchinson, A., Cohen, J., Huang, C., Pearson, M. & Wilkinson, A. Fan Feasibility Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) for people living with COPD and high SABA intake (Fan FIRST). NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Award 204349 £249,404 (Co-Investigator)

2023-2024 Gridley, K., Wilberforce, M., Pearson, M., Clarke, C. & Creavin, S. Understanding the Role of 'Peer Tutors' in Post-Diagnostic Support for People with Dementia: A Realist Process Evaluation of the Good Life with Dementia Approach. NIHR School for Social Care Research £182,941 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2023 Simpson, A., Crooks, M., Killingbeck, C. & Pearson, M. Long-Covid Rehabilitation Programme Evaluation. East Riding of Yorkshire County Council £28,507 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2023 Johnson, M., Clark, J., Pearson, M., Spathis, A., Currow, D.C & Salins, N. BREATHE-INDIA: BREATHlEssness in INDIA - Development of a breathlessness beliefs and behaviour education intervention for use in the community-setting. MRC Public Health Intervention Development £109,723 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2024 Walker, E., Johnson, M., Wray, J., White, C., Bravington, A., Pearson, M., Taylor, P., Roberts, H., Manthorpe, J. & Hussain, J. Supporting, enabling and sustaining home care workers to deliver end-of-life care: a multiple-methods community-based case study. NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) £739,830 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2027 Klok, E., Noble, S., Soegard, M., Ording, A., Konstantinides, S., Teunissen, S., Mahe, I., Brun, M., Johnson, M., Murtagh, F., Maraveyas, A., Pearson, M., Hoffmann, I., Couffignal, C, Kruip, M. Towards cancer patient empowerment for optimal use of antithrombotic therapy at the end of life (SERENITY). EU-Horizon Europe €5,999,768 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2026 Forbes, C.. Johnson, M., Huang, C., Saxton, J., Cohen, J., Mitchell, E., Pearson, M., Twiddy, M., Lind, M., Young, R & Wilson, C. A phase II, randomised feasibility basket trial of a tailored, home-based exercise programme on disease-free survival among early stage high-risk recurring cancers in Yorkshire. Yorkshire Cancer Research £1,072,013 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2027 Spathis, A., Mant, J., Morris, S., Sutton, S., Booth, S., Lovick, R., Prevost, T., Higginson, I., Maddocks, M., Reilly, C., Armstrong, N., Evans, R., Farquhar, M., Pearson, M., Johnson, M. & Reeve, J. Primary Breathe: programme to develop and test a brief remote primary care intervention for chronic breathlessness. NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research £2,416,792 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2023 Forbes, C., Johnson, M., Huang, C., Swan, F., Cohen, J., Pearson, M., Twiddy, M., Lind, M., Rawstorn, N. & Maddison, R. Adapting a smartphone-based rehabilitation programme for older adults living with and beyond cancer: an intervention development study using Intervention Mapping. NIHR Research for Patient Benefit £149,315 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2023 Murtagh, F., Johnson, M., Pearson, M., Hussain, J., Cohen, J., Clegg, A., Fraser, L., Ziegler, L., Farrin, A., Spilsbury, K., O’Cathain, A. Addressing Inequalities Across All Ages: The Yorkshire & Humber Palliative Care Research Network. National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) £99,932 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2024 Carrieri, D & Mattick, K., Pearson, M., Papoutsi, C. & Wong, G. Care Under Pressure 3: Optimising the delivery and impacts of interventions to reduce hospital doctors’ mental ill-health in the NHS. NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Award 13/29/31 £569,919 (Co-Investigator)

2022-2023 Karkou, V., Kaehne, A., Omylinska-Thurston, J., Thurston, S. & Pearson, M. Arts for the Blues: Towards integrating the use of the arts in healthcare and cultural settings to tackle depression and improve wellbeing in the North West of England. UKRI Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) £143,329 (Co-Investigator)

2021-2024 Bravington, A., Johnson, M., Boland, J., Pearson, M., Patterson, M., Lind, M. & Murtagh, F. Improving shared decision-making in malignant bowel obstruction: An exploration of context-specific treatment pathways and experiences to inform intervention development for person-centred care. Yorkshire Cancer Research £210,071 (Co-Investigator)

2021-2022 Pearson, M., Johnson, M., Boland, J., Allgar, V., Siddiqi, N. ‘Improving the detection, assessment, management, and prevention of delirium in Specialist Palliative Care Units’ Yorkshire Cancer Research TRANSFORM endowment fund £98,649 (Co-Chief investigator)

2021-2022 Maben, J., Mannion, R., Jones, A., Westbrook, J., Pearson, M., Wright, J. & Abrams, R. ‘Identifying interventions to reduce healthcare staff unprofessional behaviours: a realist synthesis’ NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HSDR)13/16/06 £274,801 (Co-investigator)

2021 Johnson, M., Daniel, S., Salins,N., Clark, J., Pearson, M., Currow, D. ‘Improving Appropriate Access and Availability of Opioids for Cancer-related Pain Control in India : bridging the gap between policy and practice’ Research England Global Challenges Research Fund 2021 £25,370 (Co-investigator)

2020-2021 Crooks, M., Pearson, M., Cohen, J. ‘The Sentinel Project: Collaborating to improve asthma care’ AstraZeneca £55,147 (Co-investigator)2019-2024 Johnson, M., Murtagh, F., Currow, D., Pearson, M. & Walker, E. ‘Building critical mass for palliative care research through collaborative support, exchange and challenge’ Research England International Investment Initiative (I3) £403,510 (Co-investigator)

2018-2022 Johnson, M., Fallon, M., Currow, D., Norrie, J., Hall, P., Seymour, J., Chaudhuri, N., Bajwah, S., Keen, J., Higginson, I., Buchanan, D., Hart, S., & Pearson, M. (2018) ‘A parallel-group, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial comparing the effectiveness and cost-consequence and cost-effectiveness of low dose oral modified release morphine (MRM) versus placebo on the intensity of worst breathlessness in people with chronic breathlessness’ - NIHR Health Technology Appraisal (HTA) Award 17/34/01 (£1,380,693) (Co-investigator)

2017-2019 Mattick, K., Pearson, M., Wong, G., Carrieri, D., Papoutsi, C., Briscoe, S. & Jackson, M. (2017) ‘Care under pressure: a realist review of interventions to tackle doctors’ mental ill-health and its impacts on the clinical workforce and patient care’ - NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HSDR) Award 16/53/12 (£201,827) (Co-Principal Investigator)

2017-2018 Turner, A., Pearson, M., Baxter, S., Bunn, F., Hanratty, B., Sheaff, R. & Wilson, P. (2017) ‘New Models of Care - Enhanced dissemination of findings from five NIHR HSDR-funded reviews’ - NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HSDR) (£27,224) (Co-investigator)

2016-2017 Sheaff, R., Pearson, M., Lloyd, H., & Byng, R. (2016) ‘From programme theory to logic models for Multi-specialty Community Providers: A realist evidence synthesis’ - NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HSDR) Award 15/77/34 (£168,170) (Co-Principal Investigator)

2016-2021 Ismail, K., MacArthur, C., Bick, D. Johnston, T., Roberts, T., Oborn, E., Pearson, M., Tincello, D., Davenport, C., Daniels, J., Dean, S., Hay-Smith, J., Hemming, K., Kidd-Chadwick, J., Bridges, N., & Coleman, T. (2015) ‘Antenatal Prophylactic Pelvic Floor Exercises and Localisation (APPEAL) Programme’ - NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (£1,893,723 - Exeter components £305,487) (Co-investigator)

2015-2017 Boyd, K., Rappert, B., Farrimond, H., Pearson, M., Lang, I., Ralph, N., Poole, A. & Mellodew, K. (2015) ‘The Exeter Policing, Evidence and Research Translation (ExPERT) Project’ -College of Policing/ Higher Education Funding Council for England (£249,976) (Co-investigator)

2014-2016 Wong, G., Pearson, M., Mattick, K. & Brennan, N. (2014) ‘Interventions to improve antimicrobial prescribing in doctors in training: a realist review’ - NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HSDR) Award 13/97/24 (£187,540) (Co-investigator)

2011-2012 Pearson, M., Jones-Hughes, T., Peters, J. & Whear, R. (2011) Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) Systematic review - ‘Are interventions to reduce the impact of arsenic contamination of groundwater on human health and crop productivity in developing countries effective?’ Award 59617 (£37,236) (Principal Investigator)

2011-2012 Anderson, R., Pearson, M., Pawson, R., & Shepperd, S. (2011) NIHR Service Delivery & Organisation (SDO) ‘The effective and cost-effective use of intermediate, step-down, hospital at home and other forms of community care as an alternative to acute patient care: a realist review’ - Award 10/1012/07 (£101,079) (Co-investigator)


Undergraduate (MBBS):

  • Phase 1 Scholarship & Special Interest Programme - Using Implementation Science to lead evidence-based change in health services
  • Phase 2 Scholarship & Special Interest Programme

Postgraduate (Taught):

  • Palliative Care: Implementing Best Practice (Programme Co-Director for PGCert/PGDip/MSc)
  • Introduction to Implementation Science for palliative care and long-term conditions (Module Lead)
  • Advanced Implementation Science for palliative care and long-term conditions (Module Lead)

All Mark’s publications are available on Worktribe.

Postgraduate research supervision

I welcome enquiries about Master’s or Doctoral research degrees in the following areas:

• Developing and evaluating palliative & chronic care interventions and implementation strategies, particularly in relation to symptom management, outcome measures and models of care

• Methodological development of theory-driven methods (in particular, realist research) for the evaluation of palliative & chronic care interventions

• The use of social science concepts (such as boundary objects) to inform implementation research and practice

Awarded postgraduate research students:

PhD (Exeter) Rebecca Hardwick: Third sector healthcare organisations and knowledge mobilisation: what works for whom in what circumstances and why? (2018)

PhD (Exeter) Thandiwe Hara-Msulira: Sustaining implementation: Understanding the sustainability of community-based public health programmes (2018)

PhD (Exeter) Harriet Hunt: Optimising cognitive assessment in primary care to support a more effective route to dementia diagnosis (2018)

Current postgraduate research students:

PhD, Jordan Curry: Acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness of online supportive care interventions for lung cancer survivors (Funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research TRANSFORM programme (2018-2022))

PhD, Kate Binnie: Body-Mind approaches for living better with chronic breathlessness. (Funded by Research England International Investment Initiative (I3)) (2021-2024)

Master’s by Thesis, Alessandro Recchioni: How can digitisation improve the efficiency of palliative healthcare delivery and the quality of patient experience? (2021-2022)

Undergraduate research students (Academy of Medical Sciences’ INSPIRE programme):

Abid Khan: Implementation and acceptability of handheld/personal mobile technology to support palliative care: a systematic scoping review

Giovanna Licastro: What enables and constrains shared decision-making about opiates for people living with breathlessness?: A systematic narrative review and framework analysis of published data using a programme theory of shared decision-making

Lara Othman: The impact and acceptability of wearable sensors for symptom monitoring and management in palliative care: a structured literature review

Aliya Prihartadi: Non-medical devices for the self-management of chronic breathlessness: A scoping review of device use, barriers and facilitators for patients, carers and clinicians.

External roles

2023-2025 Chair, Study Steering Committee (NIHR135102)

2021-2023 Chair, Study Steering Committee (NIHR130922)

2019-2022 Panel member, NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HS&DR) Funding Committee

2019-2022 External Examiner, BMedSci with intercalated honours in Global Health Policy, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

2018-2021 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Evidence & Policy

2018 Research Advisory Panel member, NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) - Social Care Panel

2016-2019 External Examiner, MSc Implementation Science and MRes Clinical Research, King’s College London

2016-2017 (South West), 2017-2018 (North East) Research Advisory Panel member, NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB)