Published on: 4 March 2020

Research by a South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust doctor is destined to have a global impact, according to a leading expert in her field.

Dr Laura Neilson, who is a consultant gastroenterologist at South Tyneside District Hospital, has been awarded an MD (Doctor of Medicine) postgraduate qualification by Newcastle University. Her thesis related to measuring and improving patient experience of endoscopy - a procedure where organs inside the body are looked at using an instrument called an endoscope to diagnose conditions, including bowel cancer. 

Through her research, which included South Tyneside patients, Dr Neilson has developed the world’s first patient-derived Patient Reported Experience Measure (PREM) for endoscopy. Until now, patient experience has been measured by what doctors and nurses think is important, rather than patients themselves.

Professor Colin Rees, Professor of Gastroenterology at Newcastle University and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, who is one of Europe’s leading experts in endoscopy, described Dr Neilson’s work towards her MD as ‘outstanding’.

He said: “I am immensely proud of Laura who deserves huge credit for what is a remarkable achievement. Her examiners included one of the most senior academics at Newcastle University and one of the world's leading gastroenterologists and they thought Laura's MD was absolutely superb and passed it without any corrections, which is almost unheard of. To have written up an MD in her first six months as a new consultant was a massive job and writing up one of this quality is an absolutely outstanding achievement.

“Her study further enhances the significant international reputation of South Tyneside’s Gastroenterology team, whose research benefits local patients and health services, as well as being of major importance nationally and internationally. We are already working with an international team to study the PREM in mainland Europe and beyond.” 

Dr Neilson joined the staff at South Tyneside District Hospital as a research registrar in 2014 and returned as a consultant after completing her registrar training in April last year.

She said: “I am delighted to have been awarded an MD for this ground-breaking work, which involved listening to patient experiences of endoscopy to find out what is really important to them. We hope to use the PREM nationally and beyond to measure and improve patient experience of these procedures. This would not have been possible without the patients who participated in the study and the fantastic research team at South Tyneside District Hospital who supported me throughout my MD. I am very grateful to Professor Rees, who supervised and mentored me throughout the process, and to my university supervisors - in particular, Professor Linda Sharp and Professor Joanne Patterson. I am passionate about patient experience and quality of endoscopy and look forward to delivering further research in the area.”