Dr Sarah Hotham BA, BSc, MSc, PhD, C.Psychol
Senior Research Fellow
- 01227 827759
A Chartered Psychologist and Research Fellow, my expertise lies in health psychology and behavioural medicine in public health, with a focus on obesity and physical activity. My PhD in Health/Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kent explored the relationship between eating behaviours and attention using experimental methods such as eye tracking, reaction times and EEG.
Research funding awards include The Big Lottery, Kent County Council, London Triborough Authorities, local NHS Trusts and CCGs. I am currently Principal Investigator for a number of projects exploring the impact of behaviour change techniques on obesity and physical activity and the role of the voluntary sector in delivering health and social care. I also lead a local evaluation - ‘Ageless Thanet’ - of a five year Big Lottery-funded programme to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
I am primary Supervisor for PhD student Susan Potter who is evaluating social prescribing programme in Bexley. I am also a CHSS Mentor.
I peer review for journals including Appetite and Eating Behaviours and carry out expert reviews for the Big Lottery and NIHR research programmes.
Previous employers include Pfizer and the School of Psychology at the University of Kent - working on projects around the role of perfectionism in sporting and academic life. I have completed Stage 1 of the British Psychological Society Health Psychology qualification.
- The implementation of virtual consultations for patients accessing NHS psychological interventions: A mixed-methods evaluation to understand what works, for whom and in what circumstances (PI). KMPT. £10,500. August-October, 2020
- London Sport (2018). Designing a training package to improve physical activity knowledge in social prescribers (PI)
- Kent County Council (2018). Designing an evaluation to capture effectiveness of the school nurse package of care programme to support children and families to make positive healthy lifestyle changes. (PI)
- Big Lottery (2018). Ageing Better Programme Intervention Typology Project. (PI)
- Bexley NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (2018). Developing an evaluation toolkit to assess impact of prevention and early intervention (PEI) grants in Bexley. (PI)
- NHS North West London Collaboration of CCGs (2017). Improving the competencies of psychological wellbeing practitioners for LTCs. (Co-I)
- Kent Health VC Scholarship. Evaluation of social prescribing model in Bexley. KentHealth VCs Research grant to fund PhD studentship. (PI)
- Kent County Council (2016). Impact of conservation volunteering on health & well-being. (PI)Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (2016). Feasibility of using mindfulness in adult Tier 3 weight management services. (PI)
- Big Lottery(2015) Ageing better programme: Ageless Thanet (Co-I)
- Kent County Council (2015). Evaluation of KCC physical inactivity pilot (PI)
- London Triborough Authorities (2015). Evaluation of ‘whole place’ community health lifestyle project. (Co-I)
- Faculty Research Fund: Social Sciences (2014). The effect of a mindful eating intervention on dieters’ susceptibility to food cues and weight loss. (PI)
- Kent Health Grant (2014). Support for the qualitative analysis of PCMHS project (PI)
- East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (2012). Understanding the support needs of disabled children and their families in East Kent (Co-I)
- PhD Studentship (2009) School of Psychology, University of Kent
- Pfizer Studentship (2007) MSc in Research Methods in Psychology
- Chartered member of the British Psychological Society: BPS Division of Health Psychology and Cognitive Psychology Section
- Association for the Study of Obesity
- UK Society of Behavioural Medicine
- Higher Education Academy: Associate Fellow
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
This is a collaboration with the Public Health Team of the London Triborough Authorities (Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and City of Westminster) on the design and delivery of a research evaluation of a new pilot project aimed at preventing obesity in childhood. The project forms part of a wider programme in the three boroughs to halt and reverse levels of childhood obesity and improve associated outcomes for children and their families. ‘Go Golborne: eat happy, move and play’ was launched in May 2015. With many schools, preschools, youth clubs and parks, Golborne - one of London’s most deprived wards – offers potential to reach large numbers of children and young people and explore the environment’s role in supporting healthy behaviours. This pilot takes a ‘whole place’ community approach through a local network of individuals and organisations. Using training opportunities, environmental improvements, consistent messages, community development and a series of social marketing campaigns, Go Golborne encourages children and their families to ‘eat happy, move and play’ by helping to create supportive environments that make healthier choices around eating and physical activity easier. Their themed campaigns will focus on simple messages such as sugar swaps, snack checks, active travel, and reduced screen time. CHSS is taking a ‘theory of change’ approach to the four-year evaluation, which will study the links between activities, outcomes and contexts of the initiative. It will incorporate a detailed process evaluation, as well as evaluating outcomes on healthy weight, changes in behaviour, awareness of and attitudes to physical activity and healthy eating, and changes in home, school and community environments. Evidence suggests that healthy lifestyles initiatives work best when targeted at a local level to respond to the unique needs of communities. Learning from other areas also highlights the importance of taking a ‘whole system’ approach where everyone who lives and works in a community plays their part to make it a healthier place for children to grow up. This pilot, as part of a multi-agency approach to tackling child obesity, will test the feasibility of replicating the intervention in other areas. The research team will: Assess impact and costs of the pilot at child and family, community and local authority level, Identify the least and most effective elements of the project - for who, in what contexts, and how. Inform the progress of the project over the three years to maximize the likelihood of greatest impact. Make recommendations on whether and how the intervention could be rolled out in or adapted for other wards. Start date: 25/05/2015 End date: 31/03/2019 Funder: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Funding: £189, 653
CHSS, as part of a multi-agency collaboration, is evaluating the five year 'Ageless Thanet' project (as part of the Big Lottery's national 'Ageing Better' programme) to reduce social isolation and ensure a better old age for Thanet residents. The evaluation design draws on the RE-AIM framework which explores impact on process and individual outcomes. A mixed methods approach will be used, gathering data from individuals accessing services and the agencies delivering them. The evaluation will be dynamic with continuous assessment and testing of the initiatives to determine which work in having a meaningful impact on social isolation. There is a strong emphasis on stakeholder involvement and empowering the community. The project will equip local community researchers with the requisite skills to take forward the evaluation process beyond 2020. The project, led by SEK (Social Enterprise Kent) will deliver services and activities across five project workstreams: wellbeing - educational, fitness, social and craft activities to enhance health and wellbeing active citizenship - volunteer 'ageing better' champions target and help isolated people in the community planning for later life - advice, support, guidance and life coaching from 'life planners' older entrepreneurs - helping those 50+ to set up or develop small businesses age-friendly businesses - 'Ageless Thanet' kite mark to be developed for display. Start date: 01/04/2015 End date: 31/03/2020 Funder: Big Lottery Fund via Social Enterprise Kent Funding: £199,172
Evaluation of Kent County Council Inactivity Pilots
Across Kent 28.1% of adults are classed as physically inactive. KCC Public Health department wants to commission a programme to reduce inactivity in high risk individuals, especially those with, or at high risk of acquiring, diseases caused or exacerbated by physical inactivity. CHSS has been commissioned to conduct an evaluation of KCC’s pilot programme targeting physical inactivity through selected GP surgeries. The evaluation, led by Dr Sarah Hotham, Chartered Psychologist and Research Fellow at CHSS will inform the design of a county-wide programme due to be rolled out in primary care in 2015/2016. The first pilot is designed to successfully deliver a programme based on ‘Let’s Get Moving’ (LGM) a Department of Health intervention based on motivational interviewing (MI) and long term support for behaviour change around inactivity. Recruitment will be in selected GP surgeries in catchment areas with high deprivation and high levels of inactivity. The focus is on high risk physically inactive individuals with conditions caused or exacerbated by their low activity levels. UK active, a not-for-profit health body for the physical activity sector, will screen and invite participants to receive 12 weeks of MI and support (with follow up at 6 and 12 months), delivered by a network of specially recruited practitioners. The programme aims to: increase and sustain regular physical activity levels county wide. reduce reliance on costly medication for conditions which could be affected by adopting an active, healthy lifestyle. ensure maximum return on existing public health Investment by linking to wider primary care services build on successes to embed scalable, replicable physical activity interventions in partner services and networks and as a preventative in disease pathways The evaluation team will gather qualitative and quantitative data, including semi structured interviews with primary care staff involved in the screening and recruitment process. A framework analysis will be undertaken to identify emerging themes from the interviews. As well as identifying characteristics in patients who changed behaviours (in order to predict future success), the evaluation will address questions around feasibility, scalability, effectiveness and cost effectiveness of patient screening, and the recruitment of practitioners to deliver the interventions. A final report will be provided when 12-month follow-up monitoring is complete. It will provide details of the findings and recommendations for future commissioning of a county-wide physical inactivity service. Start date: 03/03/2015 End date: 31/03/2017 Funder: Kent County Council Funding £4,000 Evaluation of KCC physical inactivity pilot final report here
Independent analysis of East Kent outpatients consultation
Jenny Billings leads this project which aims to improve facilities of and local access to East Kent outpatient services. Using qualitative and quantitative methods the research team will undertake independent analysis of an outpatient services consultation designed to gauge public opinion of EKHUFT’s proposed Outpatient Clinical Strategy. The CHSS team will design and develop instruments for gathering the information via online and written surveys, public events feedback sheets and telephone contact with KCMS. Researchers will pinpoint relevant demographic information for collection such as respondents’ age range, location and which outpatients departments they used. Following the consultation, the team will collect and analyse the data, identifying themes and viewpoints of respondents taking account of group age and sex profiles. Free text replies to surveys and phone calls and verbal meetings contributions will be analysed according to whether respondents favour the proposed changes or prefer retaining existing outpatient services, have alternative suggestions or express specific grievances. Researchers will conduct focus groups comprising a diverse range of people to collect a range of views and opinions. Results will inform the CHSS final report providing independent recommendations for EKHUFT in taking forward their Outpatient Strategy. Start date: 01/11/2013 End date: 30/04/2014 Funder: Kent and Medway Commissioning Support Unit Funding: £15,000 Publication: Evaluation of the Outpatients consultation in East Kent
Provision and evaluation of training and support on sport and physical activity for the Social Prescribing sector
London Sport have commissioned CHSS, led by Research Fellow Dr Sarah Hotham, to design and deliver a pilot training programme for social prescribers (SP) around sport and physical activity. The aim is to improve prescribers' knowledge and understanding of how physical activity affects health. London Sport - a County Sports Partnership funded by Sport England - believes that upskilling this workforce (usually originating from a ‘non-fitness’ background) is an ideal way to target efforts to boost physical activity among people referred by their GP with non-medical problems, to social prescribers within the community. This is a potentially inactive population with problems requiring help through voluntary sector providers. The training programme aims to build confidence among social prescribers when discussing health and physical activity with these clients. CHSS will deliver the training in January, and Research Fellow Dr Rowena Merritt will conduct an evaluation of the programme in spring. London Sport hope to obtain funding to enable roll-out of the training across all London boroughs, and possibly nationwide in future. Start date:19/11/18 End date: 30/04/19 Funder: London Sport Funding: £14,369
Understanding the support needs of disabled children and their families in East Kent
A project funded by the internal grant scheme at EKHUFT and led by Dr Eve Hutton, Head OT (Children, Young People & Families), has commenced this month. The multidisciplinary project involves parents, educators, psychologists and therapists in a collaboration between EKHUFT and the Centre for Health Service Studies, based at the University of Kent. The proposed research aims to focus on the support needs of families with a physically disabled child to ensure therapy services in East Kent can prepare for changes under discussion in parliament as part of the Children & Families Bill. The study will involve focus group interviews with parents of a physically disabled child to identify key transition points that require a change in the support provided. Opinions will also be sort on the introduction of personal budgets and how parents intend to exercise choice when obtaining expert support for their child. The project will run for a total of 9 months. More information about the project can be obtained by either contacting Dr Eve Hutton the principal investigator: firstname.lastname@example.org or the researcher on the project Sarah Hotham: S.Hotham@kent.ac.uk Start date: 01/05/2013 End date: 30/06/2014 Funder: East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust Funding: £33,066
A study into the effectiveness of a postural care education programme for parents and teachers who are responsible for the postural care needs of disabled children at home and school
The NIHR has awarded £ 241,930 grant for a collaborative project between Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Kent and clinical partners at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust and Chailey Heritage. It aims to assess the effectiveness of a postural care education programme for parents and teachers of children with physical disabilities. Previous research has highlighted that a lack of knowledge of postural care and low levels of confidence in providing such care can hinder therapeutic goals, which in turn can affect posture, function and well-being. This education programme will attempt to address these issues by recruiting parents, teachers and teaching assistants in to a 6-week intervention that will comprise workshop-based training in postural care and one-to-one support from physiotherapists and occupational therapists. This programme will be rolled out across Kent, Surrey and Sussex over the next 18 months. Workshop participants’ knowledge of postural care and confidence in providing such care will be assessed before and after participation using a validated tool that was developed specifically for this project. The evaluation will also involve focus groups to consider the benefits of the intervention from the perspective of workshop participants and the children of these participants. Start date:01/09/2011 End date: 31/07/2013 Funder: NIHR via EKHUFT Funding: £107,787 Publications An A to Z of Postural Care - "A Guide for Teaching Assistants, Educationalists, Children, Young People, Parents and Everyone" (pdf) An A to Z of Postual Care - General Questionnaire (pdf) A study into the effectiveness of a postural care education programme. Issue number 1 (pdf) Issue number 2 (pdf) A summary of the research findings from the UKC-PostCarDstudy - November 2013 (pdf) AtoZ Poster (pdf) which was awarded a prize at the BPS Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference in York. Development of a reliable, valid measure to assess parents' and teachers' understanding of postural care for children with physical disabilities: The (UKC- PostCarD) questionnaire.
Developing a public health research system to suport local government in Kent
After the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, councils took over responsibilities for public health from the NHS. This included promoting and improving health (e.g. sexual health clinics, health visitors, promoting physical activity, and promoting good health through its other activities such as transport, urban planning and education). Research is recognised to be a key part of NHS activity, with research active NHS organisations having better patient outcomes. There are concerns that councils do not use research evidence and take part in as much research, not seeing it as part of their role, or useful. Councils may not have the research knowledge, experience and culture that is generally embedded in the NHS. There are concerns that councils’ established ways of working do not always give research evidence sufficient prominence in decision-making, which tends to focus on local context and political constraints. This project aims to understand how to develop a system to support councils to use research evidence more effectively and to develop, usually in collaboration with university research departments, good quality applications for funding. We will use Kent County Council and Medway Council as study sites and have secured the collaboration of both Directors of Public Health. We will develop a questionnaire in collaboration with members of the public and the council employees. We will survey council employees to map out how research is used, what research has been carried out, and investigate what they know about research and their attitudes to it. We will then interview council employees and councillors to gain further insights into these issues and explore what they think might work to promote research culture. We will run a workshop bringing together university researchers, council employees, councillors and members of the public to identify the possible structure and function of such a research system and a plan for implementation. The outputs of this would be a design for a research system to enable better use of research evidence and to facilitate more research being carried out in Kent, an estimate of resources needed to make it happen and a framework to guide other councils to do the same with their local universities. We will work with the councils to implement the findings. In the long run we hope that this will enhance the process of council decision-making and improve outcomes for the communities served. Start date: 1/8/20; End Date: 30/11/20 Funder: NIHR Public Health Research Programme (20/30 NIHR Local Authority Research System call) Funding: £48,406
Improving competencies of PWPs/Counsellors to work with people with Long Term Conditions
Government policy has highlighted the need to extend NHS mental health service provision to meet the needs of those with co-morbid mental and physical health conditions. To work effectively with this population, mental health workers require specialist training in supporting people with long-term conditions (LTCs). We worked with NW London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups to develop, deliver and evaluate training focusing on three common conditions: diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and coronary heart disease (CHD). Training was delivered to 60 NHS mental health workers via 2-day interactive workshops. An online version of the training programme was also developed. Training was developed with input from stakeholders including clinicians, service managers and service users. Participants’ knowledge of the three conditions significantly following training, along with their understanding of the role of psychological therapies in supporting people with LTCs and confidence in using specific assessment and intervention methods. The online training programme launched in October 2017 and is available at http://www.trainingltcs.org.uk/ Start date: 1/3/17 End date: 31/12/17 Funder: NHS NW London CCG Funding: £110,678 Improving competencies of PWPs/counsellors to work with people with LTC - Read the Final Project Report (December 2017) (pdf)
Mindfulness and Weight Management
This funding supports a research collaboration between CHSS and Kent Community NHS Trust Weight Management Service, in order to co-develop a research bid to NIHR around mindfulness and weight management/maintenance. The collaboration will also facilitate the development of future studies and research proposals. Weight management team staff will provide input towards the design of the intervention and the evaluation framework. Funding for Dr Sarah Hotham's time at CHSS for one day a week during Feb-March 2016 will enable her to lead on the deliverable, the written research proposal detailing the co-developed intervention, how impact and processes will be evaluated, and next steps. Start date: 01/02/2016 End date: 31/05/2016 Funder: Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust Funding £4,702
Service evaluation of the primary health care specialist role
A project to evaluate the new primary care mental health specialist (PCMHS) role, currently being piloted across the majority of NHS CCG areas in Kent and Medway. The PCMHS role has been introduced as it has been identified that the care of some patients with stable long term mental health needs could potentially be managed more effectively in the primary care setting. This change could also help to free up secondary care services for those with greater need and could be a more cost effective way of providing care. The purpose of the role is to identify appropriate patients to move from secondary to primary care and offer support to patients in the transition from receiving care from secondary care community teams to using GP provided services. The role also involves supporting GPs and other GP practice staff to provide appropriate care to these patients and to those newly presenting with potential mental health problems, through one-to-one advice and training. The evaluation will assess the impact of the change in service by interviewing the specialists and capturing the experiences of patients. Carers’ views and experiences will also be sought and additional assessment will be undertaken from service records and from primary care and secondary care health professionals. The difference in costs and value for money around this new way of delivering the service will also be considered. Start date: 01/06/2013 End date: 31/12/2014 Funder: NHS Kent and Medway, supported by Kent and Medway Commissioning Support. Funding: £30,000 Publications: Evaluation of the Primary Care Mental Health Specialist role: Final Report The role of a practitioner health psychologist in a primary care mental health service. (in press).
Psychology, quantitative methods, public health and behaviour change, social prescribing, eating behaviours, health behaviours, self-efficacy theory, voluntary sector role in health and social care, training healthcare professionals.back to top
Convenor Intercalated BSc in Management in Primary Care
SO734: Research and Evaluation Methods
Convenor Applied Health Research - MSc
SO955: Quantitative Methods in Health Research
My motivation for mentoring
I’m a BPS Chartered Psychologist who specialises in behavioural medicine with a focus on weight management and physical activity. I received my PhD in 2013 from the University of Kent for exploring the relationship between maladaptive eating behaviours and attention using experimental methods such as eye tracking, reaction times and EEG. Since working in CHSS my interests has moved to more applied health research, working with Local Authority Public Health teams, CCGs and NHS Trusts to develop and evaluate behaviour change interventions. I am also interested in the training of healthcare professionals, improving their capacity to understand and use behaviour change techniques in everyday practice. Outside of my university role I work as a consultant and provide one-to-one support to individuals making healthy lifestyle changes.
I have been lucky enough throughout my academic career to have benefited from fantastic support and mentorship and thus appreciate the impact this positive relationship can have. I’m excited to be part of the CHSS mentorship scheme as it provides an opportunity for me to give something back, share what I’ve learnt, and build a helpful and encouraging relationship with a colleague.
I’m also keen athlete so happy to have mentoring sessions while out running, although obviously this is not compulsory!
Apply for mentorship
If you would like me to be your mentor, please fill in the mentor application form here.back to top