Skip to Content

Professor David Thompson

Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery

Professor David Thompson is Professor of Nursing in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

David has worked extensively in the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia and holds Honorary and Visiting Professorships at a variety of universities, including the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and University College Dublin, and is Distinguished Professor at Anhui Medical University. He was recently elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and features in Stanford University's database of the world’s top 2% of scientists; and in the AD Scientific Index 2022, he is ranked 1st in the UK, 2nd in Europe and 10th in the world in nursing and midwifery.

Tell us about your research

My research aims to improve the health-related quality of life and well-being of people with heart disease, including partners, family members and caregivers. I have been working in this area for over 40 years with a focus primarily on 1) designing and evaluating psychosocial interventions for patients and their partners; 2) developing and validating health-related quality of life measures for use among people with a variety of heart conditions, such as angina, a heart attack, heart failure or congenital heart disease; and 3) conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of clinical trials of cardiovascular disease prevention and rehabilitation.

What first attracted you to your research field?

When working in a coronary care unit in the 1980s, I saw that many patients who had a heart attack appeared, quite understandably, to be significantly emotionally distressed and fearful. However, this received comparatively scant attention as physical signs and symptoms were deemed far more important. So I decided to try to assess the type of distress and its causes and conducted the first studies of this among patients and their partners after a first heart attack. Somewhat surprisingly, partners reported more anxiety than the patients, which was sustained up to a year after the heart attack. I then conducted the first randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a nurse-delivered, in-hospital counselling programme for patients and partners after a first heart attack. This study, funded by a Department of Health Research Fellowship, showed that a simple programme of emotional support significantly and rapidly reduced anxiety and depression and improved knowledge and satisfaction among patients and their partners, with the effects sustained for six months. Publication of this trial received wide coverage in the academic and lay media and reached the attention of Iain Chalmers, founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, who invited me to join the newly-formed Cochrane Heart Group, and encouraged my interest in conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses as well as trials. This work formed the basis of my active programme of cardiovascular research that has grown rapidly, is being refined and replicated, and continues today with collaborators – scientists from nursing, medicine, psychology, statistics and economics, as well as with patients and their families - at QUB and across the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, US, Singapore and Thailand. During the course of this work I have been fortunate and privileged to collaborate with and be mentored by some of the world’s leading scientists, including Sir Iain Chalmers and the late Sir David Weatherall, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and Sir James Mirrlees, Nobel Laureate in Economics and Distinguished Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, all of whom served as role models and inspired, encouraged and challenged me and my work.

What impact is your research having on people's lives?

My research looks at how we can improve the care, recovery and rehabilitation of people with heart disease. I pioneered the first trials of nurse-led psychosocial interventions for cardiac patients and partners and of clinic- and home-based interventions for people with heart failure and atrial fibrillation. I conducted the first Cochrane reviews of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation and of psychological interventions in people with coronary heart disease. I also developed the first patient-generated health outcome measures for people with angina, heart attack or heart failure and for children with congenital heart disease. In addition, I led the development of the first UK clinical guidelines for cardiac rehabilitation. Much of my research has been focused on delivering interventions in the patient’s home or community, or through the use of digital technology such as eHealth. For example, my group has conducted the first trials of nurse-led interventions for people with a heart attack, heart failure or irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation). This research has been shown, for example, to reduce psychological distress, hasten recovery, improve health-related quality of life and contain healthcare costs. Thus, it has human, societal and economic benefits: in essence, it is adding years to life and life to years.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

It seems a cliché, but I feel I am contributing to making a positive difference, albeit a modest one. I enjoy what I do – life is too short and precious not to enjoy work: after all, along with sleep, it takes up most of our adult lives. I have been fortunate to work with many great colleagues, including my partner Professor Chantal Ski, though very occasionally some not-so-great ones, which has enriched my life. I like thinking of and stimulating new ideas, challenging, debating and arguing constructively with colleagues, and posing new problems and seeking solutions to them.


About David

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I'm an avid art collector with an eclectic range of work by artists such as Sidney Nolan, David Hockney and Henri Hayden, and quite a few pieces by modern Asian artists. I'm a voracious reader, particularly of books on travel, art and science, but also biographies and crime novels. I’m keen on cinema, especially films featuring Orson Welles, Cary Grant, James Mason and Gene Hackman, and love the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood. I'm also quite a keen listener of classical and contemporary music, particularly Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and The Rolling Stones: I was fortunate to meet Cohen and Jagger.

What is your favourite app?

The BBC Radio iPlayer.

What are you currently reading?

I read at least two books at any one time, usually a crime thriller and a biography: currently, Chris Brookmyre’s ‘The Cliff House’ and Paul Clements’ ‘Jan Morris: life from both sides’, respectively.

What are you most proud of?

My sons, Luke and Jack, and grandsons, Oscar and George. They're all talented in different ways as well as being kind and funny.


View more staff profiles
Staff profiles