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Professor Helen Roberts BSc, MB ChB, FRCP (UK), PhD

Professor of Medicine for Older People and Honorary Consultant in Geriatric Medicine, National lead for NIHR CRN Ageing Speciality Group,Lead for Ageing and Dementia Theme, NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex,Co-lead for ageing research, NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre

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Professor Helen Roberts is Professor of Medicine for Older People at the University of Southampton.

I trained in medicine at the University of Birmingham. I have a clinical practice as a Consultant in Geriatric Medicine at University Hospital Southampton and specialise in the management of Parkinson’s disease. I lead the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network Ageing Specialty Group which represents all NHS regions, promotes research into ageing and aims to ensure that older people have the opportunity to take part in research studies.

My own research focus is on nutrition, physical activity, frailty, sarcopenia and dementia in older people and those with Parkinson’s. I am co-lead for ageing research within the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and principal investigator on studies of nutrition and sarcopenia in older people, collaborating with researchers at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and the University of Reading. I lead the Ageing and Dementia theme of the NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex which enables the translation of research findings into clinical practice to be evaluated. Projects include the implementation of grip strength measurement into routine practice and the impact of trained volunteers on mealtime care and physical activity of older people in hospital.

I have long standing collaborations with researchers in Health Sciences, the University of Newcastle and KU Leuven Belgium, conducting research into Parkinson’s. My current research interests include the evaluation of physical activity such as dancing, and personalised exercise in Parkinson’s, and development of self-management tools for people with Parkinson’s who fall.


BSc, Physiology, University of Birmingham 1981

MB ChB, Medicine, University of Birmingham 1984

Fellow Royal College of Physicians of London 1999

PhD, University of Southampton 2012


Appointments held

2015 – present:National Lead for NIHR CRN Ageing Speciality Group

2009 – 2014: Director of NIHR CRN South Coast DeNDRoN Research Network

2010 – 2014: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Comprehensive Research Network (CRN) board member

2010 – 2012: Chair British Geriatrics Society Movement Disorders Section (Vice chair & treasurer 2008-10; secretary 2006-8)

2008 – present: Faculty member UK Parkinson’s Academy

1994 – 2002 Consultant in Geriatric Medicine, University Hospital Southampton

Research interests

Current research studies on ageing

Southampton Mealtime Assistance Roll Out Trial (SMART) 2014 - 16

The Southampton Mealtime Assistance Study, funded by the Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, evaluated the introduction of trained volunteer mealtime assistants to help older patients on Medicine for Older People wards at lunchtime. We showed that it was feasible to recruit and train volunteers to assist patients safely including help with eating. Patients, relatives, ward staff and the volunteers reported that the quality of mealtime care was improved by the introduction of the volunteers. We are now evaluating the introduction of volunteers more widely to different clinical areas within University Hospital Southampton, aiming to provide a blueprint for other hospitals to use. This work is supported by the NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex. Click here for more details of this and other studies.

Southampton Mobility Volunteers Study (SoMoVe) 2015 - 17

Older people often have very low levels of physical activity in hospital, which can lead to a loss of independence. Building on our experience of the impact of volunteers helping older people at mealtimes, this study is evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of volunteers helping older patients in hospital maintain and improve their physical activity. This work is supported by the NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex.

Grip Strength Measurement Implementation Study (GRImP) 2015 - 17

Low grip strength is found in sarcopenia, and is a recognised marker of poor current and future health. Grip strength is often measured in research studies but is not used in clinical practice. This study evaluated the implementation of routine grip strength measurement on Medicine for Older People wards, supported by the NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex.

Hertfordshire Sarcopenia Study 2012 - 17

This study aims to determine the lifecourse nutrition and lifestyle influences on sarcopenia in community dwelling older people and to identify the epigenetic, cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the observed associations between nutrition, lifestyle and sarcopenia. The study is funded by the Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.

Acute Hospital Care for Frail Older People (HOW-CGA) 2014 - 17

This multicentre study funded by the NIHR HS&DR programme is identifying markers of frailty in older people admitted to acute care and which models of care are effective and cost effective. Research partners are the Universities of Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield and the Nuffield Trust. Details are available here.

Screen and Treat for Malnutrition (STREAM) Programme 2016 - 21

I am a co-applicant on this study funded by NIHR PGfAR and led by Professor Paul Little which aims to establish the role of oral nutritional supplements for malnourished community dwelling older people.

Fortified foods for older people 2017 - 18

I am leading a study to evaluate the use of fortified foods on Medicine for Older People wards, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Reading. This study is funded by the Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

Current research in Parkinson’s

PDSAFE 2013 - 17

This is a multi-centre randomised controlled trial comparing a novel personalised physiotherapy treatment with usual care, and is funded by the NIHR HTA programme. Data collection began in May 2014 and the study will report in late 2017.

Improved understanding of disease-specific critical events causing crisis in mental health and neurological conditions. 2014 - 17

This study aims to identify events triggering change in care requirements in community dwelling people living with chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, and is supported by NHS England.

Implementing a self management guide for people with Parkinson’s who fall and their carer. 2016 - 18

This study is developing and evaluating a self- management guide in partnership with people with Parkinsons’s and their carers. This work is supported by the NIHR CLAHRC: Wessex.

First Steps. 2017 - 18

This study is evaluating a programme for people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, in partnership with people with Parkinson’s and the Universities of Oxford and Oxford Brookes. The programme is designed and delivered by people with Parkinson’s. This work is funded by Parkinson’s UK.

Recently completed postgraduate student supervision:

2 PhD students
1 DM student
2 MSc students
1 MPhil student
1 Parkinson’s UK Career Development Fellow

Current postgraduate student supervision:

Angus Prosser PhD
Fiona Rossiter DM
Stephen Lim  PhD
Alicja Baczynska MPhil
Charlotte Owen DM
Esther Clift  DClinP
Emily Walters PhD
Milly Heelan PhD


Human Development and Health

Affiliate Department(s)

Human development and physiology Research group

Faculty of Medicine

Lead for Medicine Elderly Care module in BM Year 3

Contributor to BM clinical curriculum redesign

Head of Ageing and Health Field for BMedSci 

National and International responsibilities

National lead of NIHR CRN: Ageing Speciality Group

Faculty of UK Parkinson’s Academy (education for consultants and specialist registrars)

Associate Editor for BMC Geriatrics

Trustee of the BrendonCare Foundation

Expert reviewer for NIHR applications and international journals



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Lead for Medicine and Elderly Care module BM year 3
Tutor delivering small and large group teaching  
Coordinator for BM year 5 SSU attachments to Medicine for Older People
Member year 3 and joint year steering groups

B Med Sci

Head of Field for Ageing and Health

Supervisor for research students

Personal tutor for 5-6 medical undergraduates


Faculty of UK Parkinson’s Academy


Author of module for e-learning platform on age-related muscle loss sponsored by the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society

Professor Helen Roberts
Academic Geriatric Medicine Level E Centre Block Mailpoint 807 University Hospital Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD

Room Number: SGH/CE118/MP807

Telephone:(023) 8120 4354
Facsimile:(023) 8120 6134

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