Professor Mary Boulton


Professor Emerita of Health Sociology

Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery

Mary Boulton


Mary is a medical sociologist with a broad interest in the social aspects of health and health care. Before coming to Oxford Brookes University she was a senior lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College London. In 1999 she was appointed Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences and Law and, in 2005, Director of Research in the School of Health & Social Care (2005-2011). Since 2009 she has also acted as a qualitative methodologist for the NIHR Research Design Service (South Central Region).

Mary has been a member the various research funding committees including Secretary, AIDS Behavioural Research Forum, Medical Research Council (1987-1993); member, then Vice Chair, Research Priorities Board, Economic and Social Research Council (1998-2002); member, NIHR Research for Patient Benefit panel South Central Region, National Instutite for Health Research (2006-2011); member then Deputy Chair of the NIHR Post Doctoral Fellowship Panel (2007- 2012), National Institute for Health Research; and Secretary then Chair of the Trustees of the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness (2004 - 2014).

Teaching and supervision


Current Research Students

  • Carolina Casañas I Comabella (Co-director of Studies) Caring at a Distance at the End of Life
  • Leisle Ezekial (Second supervisor)
  • Jonathan Room (Second supervisor)
  • Sheera Sutherland (Second supervisor)
  • Sarah Waters (Second supervisor)

PhD Completions:

  • Nicky Britten (Director of Studies), Awarded 1996
  • Ruth Bartlett  (Director of Studies, ESRC Case Studentship), Meanings of Social Exclusion and Inclusion in relatin to Older People with Dementia in Care Homes. Awarded 2003
  • Bridget Taylor (Director of Studies), A Heideggerian phenomenological study considering the meaning of sexuality and intimacy for patients and partners of patients with a life-limiting illness.  Awarded 2012
  • Ethel Burns (Co-Director of Studies), Intrapartum Birthing Pool Use in the UK.  Awarded 2014
  • Lauren Matheson (Co-Director of Studies) Transitions in cancer care: understanding the experience and needs of younger adult cancer patients following completion of active treatment.  Awarded 2015
  •  Marta Wanat (Co-Director of Studies) Cancer Recurrence: the experience of patients and their partners, Awarded 2016
  • Jane Henderson (Co-Director of Studies), How does women's experience of maternity care influence their outcomes? Awarded 2016
  • Victorial Coathup (Co-Director of Studies)  Exploration of dietary intake and alcohol consumption during pregnancy: a mixed methods study.  Awarded 2016


Research interests

Mary's research has included work on doctor-patient communication; risk behaviour and changes in risk behaviour in relation to HIV and AIDS; continuity of care in primary care; children with chronic illness and/or disabilities; families and health; and the evaluation of health care services from the patients' point of view. She is also interested in research ethics, the role of research ethics committees and informed consent.

Current research

The current focus of her research is supportive cancer care, particularly:

  • patients' and professionals' views and experience of endocrine therapy for breast cancer survivors
  • the role of primary care in supporting people with cancer and their families
  • continuity of care for cancer patients

She is also actively engaged in research on:

  • the views and experience of research nurses on their roles and career development needs
  • the development and validation of OxFAB - a Patient Reported Outcome Measure (PROM) on fatigue and breathlessness for patients with chronic heart failure
  • improving caregiver confidence in their ability to look after individuals discharged home at end of life

Recent Research Grants (since 2000)

  • Boulton M (2013 - 2018)  South Central Research Design Service (Senior Qualitative Methodologist for Oxford) National Institute for Health Research (£179,593)
  • Boulton M (2013 - 2014) The experience, training and support needs of research nurses, AHPs and others employed to deliver clinical research in Oxford and the Thames Valley.  Oxford Biomedical Research Centre and Thames Valley Comprehensive Local Research Network (£12,000)
  • Boulton M (2011) Research Nurses: Career development and support needs. Thames Valley HIEC and Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (£8,750)
  • Watson E (PI), Rose P, Boulton M, Davidson S, Wilkinson C (2010 – 2011) The late effects of pelvic radiotherapy: assessing the needs of long term cancer survivors – a feasibility study. Macmillan Cancer Support (£70,000)
  • Tarrant C (PI), Baker R, Freeman G, Box G, Jackson P. (2010 – 2013) Responsiveness of primary care services: development of a patient-report measure. NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation Programme. (£254,230)
  • Watson E (PI), Boulton M, Lund S, Richardson A, Rose P, Savage B, Wilson S. (2009-2010) The role of the primary care team in the care and support of patients diagnosed with cancer – perspectives of patients, family members and primary health care professionals. Macmillan Cancer Support (£59,953)
  • Freeman G, Baker R, Boulton M and others (2006-07) Continuity of care 2006: What have we learned since 2000 and what are policy imperatives now? NHS Service Delivery and Organisation R & D Programme. (£69,629)
  • Boulton M (2005) Informed consent in a changing environment: an international conference on informed consent in health & medical research involving human participants. Economic and Social Research Council (£5,000); and Wellcome Trust. (£5,000)
  • Baker, R, Freeman G, Boulton M (2001 – 2004) Continuity of Care: Patients' and carers' views and choices in their use of primary care services. NHS Service Delivery and Organisation R & D Programme. (£302,000)
  • Thorogood M, Marks D, Boulton M and Neill A (2001 – 2002) Assessing the social and psychological impact of screening for Familial Hypercholesterolaemia. British Heart Foundation. (£21,250)
  • Fielder A (Joint PI), Boulton M (Joint PI), Smyth D and Haines L (2000 – 2003) Empowering parents: researching the experience of visually impaired children to promote the development of family-centred care. National Lottery Charities Board, (£228,000)
  • Boulton M. (2001) An audit of training for cataract surgery. Alcon Laboratories.( £7,500)



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