MBE for Leeds clinical investigator

Professor Jane Nixon, LICTR

An academic at the University of Leeds has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for ground-breaking research into pressure sores.

Professor Jane Nixon, deputy director of the Leeds Clinical Trials Research Unit, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Professor Nixon has spent much of her career looking at ways of reducing the risk of patients developing bed sores. Patients with limited mobility who spend long periods sitting or lying in one position are at risk of getting pressure sores, which are painful, can cause severe disability – and in extreme cases, can prove fatal.

She said: “I am honoured that the work is being recognised in such a prestigious way. But it is important to say that the results stem from the commitment of NHS patients, nursing teams, doctors and a high calibre clinical trials team led by Professor Julia Brown.

“High quality clinical research is a team enterprise – without the team there would be no findings on which we can build better care.”

From the start, Professor Nixon’s research has challenged conventional thinking to improve the wellbeing of patients.

She started her career as a nurse in the North East of England. As a ward sister working with older patients she noticed some patients who went to the operating theatre returned to the ward with painful skin ulcers.

In 1994, she sought - and received - research funding to investigate whether the use of a pressure-reducing mattress on the operating table would reduce the risk of the sores forming.

At the time, pressure reducing mattresses were not widely used. But her research project involving more than 400 patients demonstrated they did play a key role in protecting patients, and now they are found in all operating theatres.

The research project was conducted in partnership with the University of Leeds Clinical Trials Research Unit, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

She said: “It showed that a carefully organised research study can produce evidence on which improved care can be built.”

After a 20 year NHS career, Professor Nixon joined the University of Leeds Clinical Trials Research Unit in 2002 as deputy director.

She has led a National Institute for Health Research funded research programme investigating ways of identifying the early signs that a patient is at risk of developing pressure sores – alongside work into the types of mattresses that offer the most effective protection.

Tackling pressure sores still remains a challenge for the NHS. A national audit recently (2015) estimated that around 7% of adult hospital in-patients in England suffered pressure sores.

Sir Alan Langlands, the University of Leeds’ Vice Chancellor, said: “I congratulate Jane on her honour. Her research has been pivotal in helping to shape better and more effective care for patients – and it is fitting it comes as the Clinical Trials Research Unit celebrates its 25th anniversary. Jane’s research portfolio is in keeping with the University’s aim of playing a leading role in tackling the issues that challenge society.”