Dr Heidi Siddle

HEE/NIHR Senior Clinical Lecturer

I hold a joint clinical academic post as an Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Podiatrist at the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT). In 2019, I became the first Podiatrist to be awarded a HEE/NIHR Senior Clinical Lectureship, enabling me to lead the IDEAS research project described below. My additional clinical and research experience spans diverse areas, and I am passionate about supporting other non-medical clinicians to develop successful clinical academic careers.

IDEAS research project

The IDEAS research project aims to develop a new intervention, the ‘Improving iDEntification of rheumatoid ArthritiS in primary care’ (IDEAS-PC) model, to support clinicians to identify people at risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in primary care through targeted anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) testing.

Identifying individuals at risk of RA could enable them to be referred to rheumatology services for monitoring, diagnosis and rapid initiation of treatment as required. This could improve long-term patient outcomes but also presents important challenges and risks, as detailed further in a recent editorial I led.

The IDEAS research project involves three workstreams. Workstream 1, which is now nearing completion, has focused on developing a prediction model to inform targeted anti-CCP testing in primary care. Workstream 2 is exploring the likely cost-effectiveness of identifying people at risk of RA in primary care. Workstream 3 is focused on developing the IDEAS-PC model, which will be an implementation package for the prediction model developed in Workstream 1. This will involve conducting qualitative research with primary care clinicians to develop and refine a prototype of the IDEAS-PC model.

Clinical and research experience

I qualified as a podiatrist from the University of Salford in 1998 and worked for two Community Trusts before I took up my post within the Podiatry Department in LTHT in 2000. Whilst working full time as the rheumatology specialist podiatrist I completed a Master’s degree in Advancing Clinical Practice (2004). In 2003 I had the opportunity to undertake a two-year internship which supported a part-time secondment from my NHS role to work as a clinical co-ordinator for an Arthritis Research UK (now Versus Arthritis) funded RCT under the supervision of Professor Anthony Redmond.

I have thrived on the opportunity to combine a clinical role with academic development: my work was recognised by Arthritis Research UK with a Silver Medal Research Prize (2006) and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society ‘Patient in Focus Award’ (2007). In order to formally advance my academic skills, in 2007 I was awarded a 5-year part-time Arthritis Research UK AHP Training Fellowship to undertake my PhD in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. This personal Fellowship allowed me to develop as a researcher whilst maintaining my clinical lead role in the Leeds Rheumatology Foot Clinic. I was awarded my PhD in 2013 entitled ‘Plantar plate pathology in the painful forefoot of patients with rheumatoid arthritis’.

I was the first non-medical clinician to be awarded a HEE/NIHR Clinical Lectureship in Leeds (commenced March 2015) which provided me with a step-change opportunity to formerly establish a clinical academic career, integrating my clinical leadership role whilst evolving as an independent researcher. My Clinical Lectureship supported collaborations across other Institutes and Schools (cardiovascular, engineering) within the University of Leeds, as well as establish networks to attract research funding (European League Against Rheumatism [EULAR], the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and publish in high impact journals such as the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. Developing as a clinical academic has enabled me to support other non-medics by leading projects nationally, with the College of Podiatry and Health Education England, and internationally with EULAR, to produce competencies and clinical pathways for non-medical health professionals using diagnostic ultrasound in clinical practice and research.

I was appointed as one of the first non-medical Honorary Clinical Associate Professors in LTHT (2015). This role, together with my NIHR Clinical Lectureship has provided a unique platform and a valuable opportunity to develop research capacity amongst non-medical clinicians. I have provided, and continue to provide, support for aspiring clinical academics at all levels of the HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Internship Programme.

I commenced my HEE/NIHR Senior Clinical Lectureship in 2019. Alongside this, I continue to collaborate with clinical and academic colleagues in Leeds, as well nationally and internationally, on externally funded programmes of research focusing on non-pharmacological lower limb interventions in long term conditions, which include arthritis, haemophilia and diabetes.