Areas of specialism

Workforce and wellbeing; Occupational stress; Work cultures; Mental health and wellbeing NHS staff; Mental health stigma

Previous roles

Previously, I worked as a Lecturer, University of Birmingham (2017-2022), where I taught research methods, ethics and sociology applied to health, to medical and public health students. 


Research interests


Almost half of NHS doctors are junior doctors, while high proportions are women and/or Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals. Discrimination against this population is associated with poorer career-related outcomes and unequal representation. We aimed to qualitatively explore junior doctors’ experience of workplace racial and gender-based discrimination, and its impact on their psychological distress (PD). In this study, we carried out a secondary analysis of data from a UK-based parent study about junior doctors’ working cultures and conditions. Interview data was examined using thematic analysis. Transcripts (n = 14) documenting experiences of race and/or gender-based discrimination were sampled and analysed from 21 in-depth interviews conducted with UK junior doctors. Four themes were generated about the experiences and perpetrators of discrimination, the psychological impact of discrimination, and organisational interventions that tackle discrimination. Discrimination in various forms was reported, from racially charged threats to subtle microaggressions. Participants experienced profoundly elevated levels of PD, feeling fearful, undermined, and under-confident. Discrimination is associated with elevated levels of PD, whilst negatively impacting workforce sustainability and retention. This reduces the opportunity for more diversity in NHS medical leadership. We encourage NHS hospitals to review their policies about discrimination and develop in-person workshops that focus on recognising, challenging, and reporting workplace discrimination.

Johanna Spiers, Farina Kokab, Marta Buszewicz , Carolyn A. Chew-Graham, Alice Dunning , Anna K. Taylor , Anya Gopfert, Maria van Hove, Kevin Rui-Han Teoh, Louis Appleby, James Martin, Ruth Riley (2022)Recommendations for improving the working conditions and cultures of distressed junior doctors, based on a qualitative study and stakeholder perspectives, In: BMC Health Services Research BMC

Background: Doctors, including junior doctors, are vulnerable to greater levels of distress and mental health difficulties than the public. This is exacerbated by their working conditions and cultures. While this vulnerability has been known for many years, little action has been taken to protect and support junior doctors working in the NHS. As such, we present a series of recommendations from the perspective of junior doctors and other relevant stakeholders, designed to improve junior doctors’ working conditions and, thus, their mental health. Methods: We interviewed 36 junior doctors, asking them for recommendations for improving their working conditions and culture. Additionally, we held an online stakeholder meeting with a variety of healthcare professionals (including junior doctors), undergraduate medical school leads, postgraduate speciality school leads and NHS policymakers where we asked what could be done to improve junior doctors’ working conditions. We combined interview data with notes from the stakeholder discussions to produce this set of recommendations. Results: Junior doctor participants and stakeholders made organisational and interpersonal recommendations. Organisational recommendations include the need for more environmental, staff and educational resources as well as changes to rotas. Interpersonal recommendations include changes to communication and recommendations for better support and teamwork. Conclusion: We suggest that NHS policymakers, employers and managers consider and hopefully implement the recommendations set out by the study participants and stakeholders as reported in this paper and that the gold standards of practice which are reported here (such as examples of positive learning environments and supportive supervision) are showcased so that others can learn from them.

Additional publications