Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes
Herbert Dunhill Chair of Rehabilitation
Director, Regional Rehabilitation Unit, Northwick Park Hospital
Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
After training in General internal medicine for 10 years, I entered specialty training in Rheumatology and Rehabilitation Medicine. My doctorate in laboratory-based research funded by the Wellcome Trust (examining lymphocyte flows and the response to influenza vaccination in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus) taught me how to conduct rigorous research and ignited a passion for data analysis. However, I missed my patients and soon realised that my real academic interests lay in more person-centred clinical and Health Services research.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Having started out in clinical trials and Cochrane reviews of trial-based evidence, I came to realise the limitations of experimental methodologies in complex interventions, such as rehabilitation. For the last 20 years, my research has focussed on clinical outcomes, including the development of practical measurement tools that are suitable for use in routine clinical practice. My mission has been to develop a standardised national data collection system suitable for systematic gathering of longitudinal cohort data in the context of real life clinical practice, so that we can start to ‘open the black box’ of rehabilitation, and understand what works best for which patients within the messy realities of everyday NHS services.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Supported by a 5-year National Health Institute for Research (NIHR) Programme Grant, my research team has established the UK Rehabilitation Outcomes Collaboration (UKROC) and a national database to fulfil the purpose described above. The UKROC database has now been taken up by NHS England as its commissioning dataset for specialised rehabilitation services. With over 14,000 case-episodes enrolled to date, we have a very strong data source with which to answer important questions about the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of different approaches to rehabilitation. Building on this experience, I am now working with two other NIHR-funded programmes to develop parallel approaches in paediatric neuro-rehabilitation and palliative care.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have several, but perhaps the most important is my mother Dame Professor Margaret Turner-Warwick. She embraced academic medicine in a time when few female doctors managed the challenged of combining a family with a hospital consultant career, let alone leading her academic field in respiratory medicine. The first female President of the Royal College of Physicians in its 400-year history, she demonstrated a unique blend of intellect, wisdom and compassion - mixed with a streak quiet toughness. Now in her 90th year, she remains a staunch friend and guide for many of us who are still doing battle at the coal-face of clinical academia.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
The opportunity to work with colleagues in palliative care has been both revealing and rewarding. Rehabilitation and palliative care have much in common, being focussed primarily on the quality of living and dying in society, rather than the seeking of a medical cure. I value the experience and perspective of my colleagues and am constantly stimulated by their thirst for knowledge and ability to think laterally. The Cicely Saunders Institute is the first dedicated institute of palliative care and rehabilitation in the world. Between that and my research collaborations in Australia and New Zealand, where could possibly be a better place to work?
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
… that’s only the half of it!. There are also the added pressures of leading a busy hyper-acute rehabilitation unit, managing its 65 WTE staff, and being the national clinical lead for NHS policy development in specialist rehabilitation. Currently I chair the NHS England Clinical Reference Group for Specialist Rehabilitation and Monitor’s Pricing Strategy Advisory Group. In November this year, I will take over as president of the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine. I balance these in the only way possible – by working all hours that God gives. But, my goodness, it’s fun!
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
When one enjoys work as much as I do, there is less need for leisure time. But I get to play music, ski, sail, water-ski and scuba dive whenever I can, and sometimes there is even an opportunity to mix work with these activities. I am blessed with a family of workaholics. Both my daughters are established in their own careers (a doctor and a lawyer) and my husband (having retired from schoolmastering at Westminster School) is now Professor of Lieder at the Royal Academy of Music. So I am very fortunate to have few competing pressures from home, but the key secrets for survival are to have a full-time housekeeper and not being too house-proud...
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
As a clinician first and foremost, the most important thing is to listen to what our patients are telling us. Their experiences hold the key to providing better health services for the future. But as an advocate for rehabilitation, I have learned to grasp opportunities as they come along and never to take ‘no’ for a first (or even a second) answer. When I go to my grave I shall have “..And Rehabilitation!” written on my headstone.