Dr Ruth Riley BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Ruth Riley

Institute of Applied Health Research
Lecturer in Applied Health Research

Contact details

Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Murray Learning Centre
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Research Interests

Dr Ruth Riley is an applied social scientist and qualitative methodologist as applied to health.  Her main research interest focuses on the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals.  Ruth's research explores sources of stress, distress, mental ill health and burnout in the workplace and approaches to prevention and improving access to support.  Relatedly, her research also explores discrimination in the workplace, exploring how individuals perceive, internalise, manage and resist discriminatory practices, including racism, sexism and homophobia.

Patient/Public Involvement

Ruth has meaningfully engaged, involved and collaborated with patients, service users and members of the public in research activities.  This has included involvement of patients and service users using the co-researcher model in studies related to homelessness and mental health.  She is interested in counter-hegemonic narratives and has been a long-standing advocate of the co-researcher and co-productive research models.  These approaches value experiential expertise and are committed to empowering individuals to enable them to meaningfully participate in the research life-cycle.


  • PhD Medical Sociology. University of Bath.
  • MSc Health Promotion. Queen Margaret University Edinburgh.
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology. University of Sussex.


Ruth's PhD employed a mixed-method approach to understand the ways in which GPs, nurses and pharmacists manage patients' emotional cues and concerns in healthcare encounters.

Previously, she has worked on a range of research and evaluation projects within the health and social sectors. Examples of the type of research Ruth has undertaken to date, include:  comparing the communication styles of different healthcare professionals working in primary care; undertaking a qualitative synthesis of lay perspectives of taking prescribed psychotropic medication; managing and conducting a process and outcome evaluation into the closure of a rehabilitation unit for individuals with complex needs; exploring meanings of health and access to health promotion activities in individuals with severe mental illness; exploring meanings of health and access to health promotion services in young, homeless people; and identifying homeless women’s experiences of verbal, physical and sexual violence.



Ruth is currently the Principal Investigator of study ‘A mixed method study to identify working conditions and work cultures associated with psychological distress and suicidality among junior doctors working in the NHS’, funded by the NIHR RfPB.  In addition Ruth is Chief Investigator for 'Identifying the impact on and support needs of NHS staff following a colleague's suicide: A study to inform postvention guidance', a project developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers in clinical settings, academia and the charity sector as well as front-line medical staff. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme. 

There are currently 55, 000 junior doctors working in the NHS; comprising half the medical workforce. Evidence suggests junior doctors are particularly vulnerable to work-related psychological conditions such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression, or burnout. Junior doctors face specific pressures related to their professional stage and development which may account for their increased vulnerability to work related stress and distress. This mixed method study will examine and identify specific working conditions and work cultures associated with elevated psychological distress or suicidality amongst junior doctors, including doctors who have self-harmed and attempted suicide.

Previously, Ruth was the Principal Investigator of a study ‘Exploring the barriers and facilitators to help-seeking by GPs: improving access to support’, funded by the NIHR SPCR.

This was a multi-centre qualitative study aiming to explore what helps and hinders General Practitioners (GPs) when they seek help and support for mental health problems and/or stress and burnout. Doctors, including GPs, are more likely to experience reduced well-being and mental health symptoms, including anxiety, low mood, depression, high stress and burnout. Despite this, evidence suggests that the NHS workforce, including doctors, have insufficient access and face barriers to mainstream healthcare provision for such problems.

Other activities

Turning Research into Performance Art

This creative approach to dissemination and public engagement has been showcased as a NIHR Impact Case Study

PreScribed (a life written for me) explores the side effects of being a GP navigating the NHS. 
Viv Gordon was commissioned by The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute at University of Bristol to work with researcher Ruth Riley to make a show for the Feel It Festival 2016. Viv’s own lived experience of mental ill health, combined with verbatim extracts from anonymised research transcripts, creates a powerful account of a GP on the brink of a crisis. 


Ruth Riley, Marta Buszewicz, Farina Kokab, Kevin Rui-Han Teoh, Anya Gopfert, Anna K. Taylor, Maria van Hove, James Martin, Louis Appleby, Carolyn A. Chew-Graham (2021). The sources of work related psychological distress experienced by England-wide foundation and junior doctors: a qualitative study. BMJ Open Vol 11:6

Ruth Riley, Farina Kokab, Marta Buszewicz, Anya Gopfert  Maria van Hove, Anna K. Taylor Kevin Rui-Han Teoh, James Martin, Louis Appleby, Carolyn A. Chew-Graham (2021). Protective factors and sources of support in the workplace as experienced by England-wide foundation and junior doctors: a qualitative study. BMJ Open. Vol 11:6

Ruth Riley, Johanna Spiers, Viv Gordon (2021). PreScribed (A Life Written for Me): A Theatrical Qualitative Research-Based Performance Script Informed by General Practitioners’ Experiences of Emotional Distress. International Journal of Qualitative Research, Vol 20

Caroline Morgan, Gilles de Wildt, Renata Billion Ruiz Prado, Nisha Thanikachalam, Marcos Virmond, Ruth Riley (2020). Views and Experiences of Overweight and Obese Adults on the Barriers and Facilitators to Weight Loss in Southeast Brazil: A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health & Well-being.    

Johanna Spiers & Ruth Riley (2018) Analysing one dataset with two qualitative methods: the distress of general practitioners, a thematic and interpretative phenomenological analysis, Qualitative Research in Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/14780887.2018.1543099

Panagioti, M., K. Geraghty, J. Johnson,  Anli Zhou, Efharis Panagopoulou, P, Carolyn Chew-Graham, David Peters, M; Alexander Hodkinson,  Ruth Riley,  Aneez Esmail. (2018). "Association between physician burnout and patient safety, professionalism, and patient satisfaction: A systematic review and meta-analysis." JAMA Internal Medicine 178(10): 1317-1330.

Riley, R, Spiers, J,Chew-Graham, C,  Taylor, A.K., Thornton,G, Buszewicz,M, (2018). Treading water but drowning slowly’: What are GPs’ experiences of living and working with mental illness and distress in England? A qualitative study. BMJ Open.  BMJ Open 2018;8:e018620. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018620 

Riley, R, Spiers, J, Buszewicz,M, Taylor, A.K., Thornton,G, Chew-Graham, C (2018). What are the Sources of Stress and Distress for General Practitioners Working in England? A Qualitative Study.  BMJ Open, 8 (1)

Spiers, J., M. Buszewicz, C. A. Chew-Graham and R. Riley (2018). "The experiences of general practitioner partners living with distress: An interpretative phenomenological analysis.J Health Psychol: 1359105318758860.

Curtis, P., G. Taylor, R. Riley, T. Pelly and M. Harris (2017). "Written reflection in assessment and appraisal: GP and GP trainee views." Educ Prim Care 28(3): 141-149.

Johanna Spiers, Marta Buszewicz, Carolyn Chew-Graham, Clare Gerada, David Kessler, Nick Leggett, Chris Manning, Anna Taylor, Gail Thornton, and Ruth Riley (2017). What are the barriers, facilitators and survival strategies for GPs seeking treatment for distress? A qualitative study. BJGP.

Mamunur R. Malik, Zaeem Ul Haq, Quaid Saeed, Ruth Riley, Wasiq M. Khan, Distressed setting and profound challenges: Pandemic influenza preparedness plans in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Journal of Infection and Public Health, Available online 10 October 2017, ISSN 1876-0341.

Thorn, J, Brookes, S, Ridyard, CH, Riley, R, Hughes, DA, Wordsworth, S, Noble, S, Thornton, G & Hollingworth, W, 2017, ‘Core items for a standardized resource-use measure (ISRUM): expert Delphi consensus survey’. Value in Health.

Spiers, J, Buszewicz, M, Chew-Graham, C, Gerada, C, Kessler, D, Leggett, N, Manning, C, Taylor, A, Thornton, G & Riley, R, 2016, ‘Who cares for the clinicians? The mental health crisis in the GP workforce’. British Journal of General Practice, vol 66., pp. 344-345.

Riley, R, Coghill, N, Montgomery, AA, Feder, G & Horwood, J, 2015, ‘Experiences of patients and healthcare professionals of NHS cardiovascular health checks: a qualitative study’. Journal of Public Health.

Riley, R & Weiss, MC, 2015, ‘A qualitative thematic review: emotional labour in healthcare settings’Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol 72., pp. 6-17.

Riley, R, Coghill, N, Montgomery, AA, Feder, GS & Horwood, JP, 2015, ‘The Provision of NHS Health Checks in a Community Setting: An Ethnographic Account’. BMC Health Services Research, vol 15.

Marjorie C Weiss, Joanne Platt, Ruth Riley, Betty Chewning, Gordon Taylor, Susan Horrocks, Andrea Taylor (2014). Prescribing Decision Making and Patient Outcomes in GP, Nurse and Pharmacist Prescriber Consultations. Primary Health Care Research & Development.

Ruth Riley, Marjorie C Weiss, Joanne Platt, Gordon Taylor, Susan Horrocks, Andrea Taylor (2013). A Comparison of GP, Pharmacist and Nurse Prescriber Responses to Patients’ Emotional Cues and Concerns in Primary Care Consultations. Patient Education and Counseling 91(1):65-71.

Weiss, Marjorie; Platt, Jo; Riley, Ruth; Taylor, Gordon; Horrocks, Susan; Taylor, Andrea (2013). Solicitations in GP, Nurse and Pharmacist Prescriber Consultations: An observational study. Journal of Family Practice.

Britten, N., Riley, R., & Morgan, M (2010). Resisting psychotropic medicines: a synthesis of qualitative studies of medicine - taking. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 16: 207-218

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