Caroline Watkins

Prof. Dame Caroline Watkins

Professor of Stroke and Older People’s Care; Faculty of Health and Wellbeing Director of Research and Innovation

Faculty of Health and Wellbeing

Brook Building, BB429

+44 (0) 1772 89 3646

Subject Areas: Allied Health, Psychology, Health, Nursing and Midwifery, Public Health

Caroline is the only UK nursing professor of stroke care and leads the internationally renowned Stroke Research Team, Director of Lancashire Clinical Trials Unit (CTU), Director of Lancashire research Institute For global hEalth and wellbeing (LIFE), Director of Capacity Building and Implementation for NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast (NIHR CLAHRC NWC) and Implementation Lead for NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (NIHR ARC NWC).

Caroline is Director of Research and Innovation for Faculty of Health and Wellbeing and has established Research Support Team (RST) and Health and Wellbeing Research Methodology and Implementation Hub (HeRMI) to improve capacity and capability for research, as well as providing a mechanism for developing researchers.

Full Profile

Caroline is a nurse and recognised as an international leader in stroke care with well-established world-wide, inter-professional, collaborative networks in stroke care and research. She is acknowledged for developing and promoting high quality robust research which informs UK policy, guidelines and care, and has subsequently been adopted across the world including: being a key player in initiating the FAST campaign, introducing prehospital care into national stroke guidelines, working alongside clinicians, patients, carers and the public in streamlining stroke pathways, and considering priorities for long-term care. Caroline has led the development of the Stroke-Specific Education Framework (SSEF), which, through supporting and guiding workforce development, facilitates the delivery of quality stroke care.

Caroline’s work with NIHR CLAHRC NWC (a regional collaboration of healthcare and educational organisations) has facilitated the effective engagement of key partners across health and social care in developing a research agenda aimed at reducing health inequalities through implementation research. She heads the largest nurse-led stroke research unit, with a large multidisciplinary team of researchers, with close clinical and academic links, and an extensive portfolio of pure and applied research. She is Director of the UK's Lancashire Clinical Trials Unit which is leading a number of large UK and global stroke studies.

Caroline is NIHR Senior Investigator, and thus, a member of the Faculty of NIHR Senior Investigators. NIHR Senior Investigators are judged by a panel of international research experts to be the most outstanding leaders of patient and people-based research in the UK. There are only 200 Senior Investigators, they come from all areas of clinical research, and she is honoured to be one of these.

In 2016 Caroline received a ‘Life After Stroke Special Recognition Award’ by UK's The Stroke Association for contributions to improving the lives of stroke survivors through better stroke care and research. She is currently Chair of UK Stroke Forum (UKSF). Caroline was recognised for services to Nursing and Older People’s Care in 2017 New Year Honours with the award of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

  • PhD, University of Liverpool, Thesis title: The Effects of Patient's Expectations on the Rehabilitation Process, 1990-1999
  • BA (Hons), Psychology, Class 2:1 & Wandecza Dubicki Prize for Research, 1986-1990
  • State Registered Nurse, South Sefton Health Authority, 1977-1980
  • Certificate in Social Care, 1988-1989
  • Further Education Teaching Certificate, 1985-1986


Chatterjee K, Stockley RC, Lane S, Watkins C, Cottrell K, Ankers B, Davies S, Fisher Morris M, Fallon N, Nurmikko T (2019) PULSE-I - Is rePetitive Upper Limb SEnsory stimulation early after stroke feasible and acceptable? A stratified single-blinded randomised controlled feasibility study. Trials, 20(338). doi: 10.1186/s13063-019-3428-y

Writing Group of the FOCUS Trial Collaboration (Dennis M, Forbes J, Graham C, Hackett M, Hankey GJ, House A, Lewis S, Lundström E, Sandercock P, Mead G); other members of the FOCUS Trial Collaboration (list includes Watkins C) (2019). Effects of fluoxetine on functional outcomes after acute stroke (FOCUS): a pragmatic, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial. The Lancet, 393(10168):265-274. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32823-X

Boaden E, Lightbody CE, Watkins CL (2019) Are you IDDSI ready? British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 15(1):13-18. doi: 10.12968/bjnn.2019.15.1.13

Thomas LH, Coupe J, Cross LD, Tan AL, Watkins CL (2019) Interventions for treating urinary incontinence after stroke in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2019(2). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004462.pub4.

More publications

Teaching Activities

“Postgraduate Degree by Research” students supervision

Current Projects

NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North West Coast. NIHR. 2019.

Confirming the Mechanism of Motivational Interviewing Therapy after Stroke (COMMITS). NIHR CLAHRC North West Coast. Improving Mental Health Theme. 2019.

Standardised Neurological OBservation Schedule for Stroke (SNOBSS). NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship (DRF).2019.

DECISIONS: Development and evaluation of a Comprehensive Intervention to Support clinicians and patients in improving the management of anticoagulation in Atrial Fibrillation to reduce risk of stroke (CIS-AF). NIHR RfPB. 2018.

NIHR Global Health Research Group on stroke at King's College London. NIHR Global Health Research. 2018.

Community Holistic Interventions for Multimorbidity in older people: Evaluation of the evidence (CHIME). Liverpool CCG Research Capability Funding. 2018.

A randomised controlled trial of job retention vocational rehabilitation for employed people with inflammatory arthritis: the WORKWELL trial. Arthritis Research UK. 2018.

ICONS II: Identifying Continence OptioNs after Stroke randomised controlled trial. NIHR HTA. 2017.

Lancashire Research Institute for global hEalth and wellbeing (LIFE). University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). 2017.

NIHR Global Health Research Group on Improving Stroke Care at University of Central Lancashire. NIHR Global Health Research. 2017.

RETurn to work After stroKE (RETAKE). NIHR HTA. 2017.

Developing future leaders in stroke nursing research. The Burdett Trust for Nursing. 2017.

STROke, Life and LeisurE Research Survey (STROLLERS). NIHR Senior Investigator Award. 2017.

Health system wide approach to improving and innovating in the management of people with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) through medication optimisation. The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and Pfizer. 2016.

Optimising Psychoeducation for Transient Ischaemic Attack and Minor Stroke Management (OPTIMISM study). The Stroke Association Postdoctoral Fellowship. 2015.

Supporting the person experiencing a stroke through fostering relationship centred care on a stroke unit. NIHR/HEE CAT Clinical Lectureship. 2014.

NIHR Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) North West Coast (NWC). NIHR. 2013-2019.

Recently Completed Projects

Developing a research collaboration and funding application writing group for stroke risk in patients with Atrial Fibrillation. NIHR Research Capability Funding (RCF) via Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). 2016.

Improving Cardiac Arrest Recognition and Effectiveness (ICARE). Department of Health. 2015.

Aiding atrial fibrillation detection in Primary Care. North West Coast Academic Health Science Network. 2015.

Head Position in acute Stroke Trial (HeadPoST). National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). 2013.

Research Activities

Acute stroke; Anxiety after stroke; Aphasia; Capacity building and implementation; Clinical academic internships; Clinical and academic leadership; Clinical trials; Communication therapy; Complex interventions; Continence and incontinence (after stroke); Depression screening, prevention and treatment; Dressing rehabilitation; Dysphagia; Early monitoring and activation; Emergency pathways; Exercise after stroke; Functional recovery; Head positioning in acute stroke; Health innovation and education; Health research methodology and implementation; Identification of needs/unmet needs; Involvement of users and carers in organisation and delivery of stroke care; Measurement of outcome, Identification of needs/unmet needs; Medication adherence post stroke; Motivational interviewing; Neurological assessment of stroke patients; Nursing care, Rehabilitation and Re-enablement - early and later; Occupational therapy; Older people’s care; Organisation and delivery of therapy services; Promotion of continence/management of incontinence; Psychological adjustment; Psychological and neurological problems after stroke; Public awareness; Quality of stroke care; Rapid emergency stroke pathways; Rehabilitation; Repetitive functional task practice; Service development and implementation; Spasticity in stroke; Stroke; Stroke assessment and management; Stroke education; Stroke information for South Asian community groups; Stroke prevention and management; Stroke service development; Stroke-Specific Education Framework (SSEF); Stroke strategy implementation; Stroke workforce development, education and training; Swallowing; Systematic review; Telemedicine; Telestroke systems; Thrombolysis in acute stroke; Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA); Upper limb exercise; User involvement and needs assessment; Use of new technologies; Vocational rehabilitation; Workforce Development, Education and Training.

External Activities

Positions of Responsibility

  • Implementation Lead, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (NIHR ARC NWC)
  • Director of Capacity Building and Implementation, NIHR CLAHRC NWC
  • Professorial Fellow in Stroke Care, Australian Catholic University
  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to Nursing and Older People’s Care, Queen’s Honours
  • Education and Training (E&T) Lead and Member, UK Stroke Forum (UKSF) Steering Group
  • Education and Training (E&T) Lead, UKSF Scientific Conference Programme and Education Committee
  • NIHR Training Lead for NIHR CLAHRC North West Coast (NWC), NIHR Infrastructure Training Forum
  • NIHR Senior Investigator
  • NIHR Academic Training Advocate for Nursing clinical academic career
  • NSNF Representative and Member, UKSF Steering Group
  • NSNF Representative, UKSF Conference Programme and Education Committee
  • Stroke-Specific Education Framework (SSEF) Consultant, UKSF Education and Training (E&T) Consultation Group


  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Fellow, European Stroke Organisation (FESO)
  • Chair, UK Stroke Forum
  • Chair, European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC) AHC Sub-Committee
  • Co-Chair, World Stroke Organisation (WSO) / European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC) 2020 AHC Sub-Committee
  • Member, ESO-WSO 2020 Education Committee
  • Member, World Stroke Organisation (WSO)
  • Member, American Heart Association
  • Member, World Federation for NeuroRehabilitation (WFNR)
  • Member, Royal Statistical Society (RSS)
  • Member, OPSYRIS (Organisation for Psychological Research into Stroke)
  • Member, Society for Research in Rehabilitation (SRR)
  • Member, Royal College of Nursing
  • Member, UK Swallowing Research Group Committee
  • Member, Stroke Programme Working groups: Task and Finish groups for Long term care and Rehabilitation
  • Member, Task Force to develop 2020 ESC Guidelines for the management of Atrial Fibrillation
  • Member, International Scientific Advisory Committee for NIHR Global Health Research Group on Atrial Fibrillation Management
  • Member, National Stroke Workforce Working Group
  • Member, International Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation Roundtable 2 (SRRR 2): Implementation Group
  • Member, International Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation Roundtable (SRRR)
  • Member, Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions (CCNAP)
  • Member, Lancashire Neuroscience Forum
  • Honorary Overseas Life Member, Stroke Society of Australasia


  • UK Stroke Forum Conference
  • Northern Ireland Stroke Forum
  • Welsh Stroke Conference
  • European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC)
  • International Stroke Conference (ISC)
  • World Stroke Congress
Research Groups

Stroke Research Team, Lancashire Research Institute For global HEalth and Wellbeing (LIFE), Lancashire Clinical Trials Unit (CTU), HeRMI, NIHR CLAHRC NWC

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