University of Bath Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer, Dr Jo Daniels, is the recipient of this year’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to Research Award’ presented by the Society of Occupational Medicine – the largest and oldest national professional organisation for individuals with an interest in occupational health.

Dr Daniels’ research focuses on psychological distress in medical contexts, including responses to Covid-19, high impact healthcare use, and the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff, including in emergency medicine settings. She has collaborated extensively with the colleagues at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).

Research from Dr Daniels during Covid-19 into the rise in health anxieties related to the pandemic and shielding were widely publicised and cited. More recently, her research into the ongoing impact of the pandemic for shielding groups of immunocompromised people was presented in Parliament.

Through her collaborations with colleagues at the RCEM, she is recognised by the Society of Occupational Medicine for work which established the mental health burden on the emergency care workforce. As a follow-on from this study, Jo led the development of a model and pathway of psychology care for doctors through the Covid Clinicians Cohort study (CoCCo).

This used in-depth individual interviews to develop an evidence-based approach to improve the model. It has subsequently been adopted in clinical services and has since been cited by NHS Employers as a key resource. The CoCCo model offers a clear outline of a multi-level pathway for healthcare workers and managers.

Shifting focus to the link between wellbeing and retention, Jo Daniels also led her team on the ‘Psychologically Informed Practice and Policy’ (PiPP) study, a multidisciplinary collaboration which developed evidence-based policymaker recommendations focussed on addressing issues of retention in healthcare systems.

In collaboration with the RCEM and funded by UKRI, PiPP used focus group interviews to identify perceived barriers to workplace wellbeing and retention and from this developed a set of four clear recommendations for policymakers. The work is now informing practice within the NHS and is used by NHS Employers.

From January 2024, Jo will be working with the Department for Health and Social Care on a UKRI/ESRC-funded Policy Fellowship, the first of its kind, building on her previous work with policymakers, including NICE and the British Psychological Society. Read more about this work.

Commenting on the accolade, Dr Daniels said: "I am truly delighted that our research into the mental health and wellbeing of emergency medicine has been recognised by the Society for Occupational Medicine. This programme of work and the impact it has achieved is a reflection of what collaborative, multi-disciplinary working can achieve.

"Participants and research teams included, this body of work is the result of the time, energy and commitment of over 5,600 individuals during the pandemic, all of whom worked on the frontline or near it, and while I am happy to accept the award for leadership and driving the research forward, I feel it belongs to us all."

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Bath, Professor Deborah Wilson said: “This award from The Society of Occupational Medicine is a fantastic recognition of the work Jo has led over recent years to address issues related to staff welfare and retention within the NHS.

"Not only has her research unearthed clear challenges within the current system, but she has also helped to develop solutions which, through her own engagement efforts including with policymakers, she is ensuring get to the right people who can start to bring about the necessary changes. My sincere congratulations.”

Nick Pahl, CEO of the Society of Occupational Medicine said: “Dr Jo Daniels won the SOM Outstanding Contribution to Occupational Health Research based on criteria that included her success in collaboration, demonstrating best practice and developing the evidence base. We send our congratulations to Jo for her contribution to this key area.”

The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) is the largest and oldest national professional organisation of individuals with an interest in occupational health. SOM's Patrons are Lord Blunkett, Dame Carol Black, Lord Popat and Rt Hon Sir Norman Lamb. It publishes the Journal of Occupational Medicine and hosts the Academic Forum for Work and Health.