OPERA 2024: Zoe Edwards

Introducing the fourth member of the OPERA 2024 shortlist, Zoe Edwards, lead research practitioner/practice pharmacist/trainee advanced clinical practitioner at Affinity Care Primary Care Network; primary care and community clinical research associate lead (pharmacy) at NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Research Network; and honorary senior research Fellow at the University of Bradford.
Photo of OPERA shortlisted researcher Zoe Edwards on a stylised background with the OPERA logo

Fast emerging as a leader within pharmacy research, Zoe completed her undergraduate training 25 years ago and worked for 15 years as a community pharmacist, successfully managing several independent and chain pharmacies.

After her father was diagnosed with cancer, Zoe witnessed first hand the challenges and, at times, suboptimal palliative care that patients receive, and she became determined to make a difference. It was at this point that her career in research began to unfold.

“I saw a job looking at pharmacy services for patients with cancer pain and I just thought, that’s something that really needs to be done,” she said. “I could see how pharmacists could help patients with cancer pain at the end of [their] life and that it wasn’t something we were doing. I was also quite involved in setting up new pharmacy services at that time and could see how the two things could marry together.”

Zoe entered academia in 2014, working as a research pharmacist at the University of Bradford, and  completed her PhD in 2019 through the published works route. She has successfully created a well-balanced portfolio career and is a perfect example of how pharmacists can cultivate their professional development in a way that brings together their full range of skills, interests and experiences.

“My role at the moment is wearing several hats on different days, and sometimes two hats a day. Part of my role is research lead practitioner for the primary care network that I work in … another part of my role is as a Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Research Network (CRN) pharmacy lead … and I have really close links with Leeds and Bradford University,” she added.

Her work on the ActMed study evaluated patient and carer access to medicines at end of life, within the context of models of service delivery. She has also undertaken complementary work examining medicines shortages and the supply chain. Zoe was recently awarded funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to work two days per week on a project exploring fibromyalgia symptoms and how to expand the use of evidence-based treatments and management for the condition.

Zoe’s research into cancer pain and managing patients at end of life is already having an impact. Her findings contributed to the Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill, which was read in the House of Lords in 2020, and her work has informed the development of new Daffodil standards for community pharmacies, produced by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Marie Curie.

In her current NIHR role as Yorkshire and Humber CRN pharmacy research lead, Zoe has carried out local, regional and national work. Locally, she has formed a network of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in primary care and the community who are interested in research. On a national level, in September 2023, Zoe presented at an online event hosted by the Primary Care Pharmacy Association on demystifying research.

Zoe is passionate about unlocking the potential that exists within pharmacy to contribute more actively to research and helping colleagues from other disciplines to appreciate the value that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can bring. As part of her role as Yorkshire and Humber CRN pharmacy research lead, Zoe has developed a strategy setting out how technicians, community pharmacists and practice pharmacists can become more involved with research and formed a national committee to action the recommendations.

Since moving into primary care in 2021, Zoe has continued to actively publish and contribute to grant applications. She has received funding from NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board to look at barriers and facilitators to primary care staff taking part in research, and is currently at the co-development phase for a study exploring how older people with mild-to-moderate dementia manage their medicines.

Zoe’s career path is unique and her achievements are testament to her ability to overcome challenges. Reflecting on her journey into research, Zoe said: “It was a scary place to go at first because I’d gone from working in community pharmacy for 15 years to this world of research with so many acronyms that I didn’t know. But it didn’t take me long to adapt and then, over time, I started to teach those acronyms to other people and help other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to take those first steps.”

She continues to make a difference with her clinical work and is an expert at patient involvement and co-design. Her career has been in constant flux, but one thing that has not changed is how much she loves her time with patients. 

“I really like the balance of my clinical work alongside my research, because I think my research is strengthened by my clinical work,” she explains. “And if you’re seeing patients every day … it’s like you’ve got a constant PPI [patient and public involvement] presence, because you are hearing how patients are experiencing their illness and that makes you constantly think about what you could do to try to address the issues that they have.” 

Panel comments

“Appears to have had significant impact on policy and practice, particularly the role of community pharmacists in palliative care… leadership of emerging researchers within primary care in her region also stood out”

“An excellent candidate with a varied career … Published Conversation articles with wide reach … Excellent evidence of direct link between the research and impact on pharmacy practice”


Breen L, Silcock J & Edwards Z. Drug shortages affected 111 products in the UK this year − but the outlook for 2024 may be better. The Conversation. 2023. Available at: https://theconversation.com/drug-shortages-affected-111-products-in-the-uk-this-year-but-the-outlook-for-2024-may-be-better-219445

Breen L & Edwards Z. How the ‘tripledemic’ is restricting cold and flu medicine supplies − and what to do if you’re affected. The Conversation. 2023. Available at: https://theconversation.com/how-the-tripledemic-is-restricting-cold-and-flu-medicine-supplies-and-what-to-do-if-youre-affected-197715

Breen L, Silcock, J & Edwards Z. Here’s why so many medications are out of stock − and what to do if it affects you. The Conversation. 2022. https://theconversation.com/heres-why-so-many-medications-are-out-of-stock-and-what-to-do-if-it-affects-you-190476

Latter S, Campling N, Birtwistle J et al. Patient and carer access to medicines at the end of life: the ActMed mixed-methods study. Health Soc Care Deliv Res 2022;10(20). doi: 10.3310/FIQE5189

Breen L, Silcock J & Edwards Z. Diamorphine shortage could be more than just a problem for drug users. The Conversation. 2022. Available at: https://theconversation.com/diamorphine-shortage-could-be-more-than-just-a-problem-for-drug-users-185161

Chapman E, Pini S, Edwards Z & Bennett MI. Conceptualising effective symptom management in palliative care: a novel model derived from qualitative data. BMC Palliat Care 2022;21(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12904-022-00904-9

Chapman EJ, Di Martino E, Edwards Z et al. Practice review: Evidence-based and effective management of fatigue in patients with advanced cancer. Palliat Med 2022;36(1):7–14. doi: 10.1177/02692163211046754

Edwards Z, Chapman E, Pini S & Bennett MI. Understanding the role of hospice pharmacists: a qualitative study. Int J Clin Pharm 2021;43(6):1546–54. doi: 10.1007/s11096-021-01281-8

Edwards Z, Mulvey MR, Chapman E & Bennett MI. A national survey of hospice pharmacists and a comparison with international models. Int J Pharm Pract 2021;29(3):252–57. doi: 10.1093/ijpp/riab002

Bennett MI, Allsop MJ, Allen P et al. Improving the Management of Pain from Advanced Cancer in the Community (IMPACCT). Programme Grants for Applied Research 2021;9(15). doi: 10.3310/pgfar09150

Chapman E, Edwards Z, Boland J et al. Practice review: Evidence-based and effective management of pain in patients with advanced cancer. Palliat Med 2020;34(4):444–53. doi: 10.1177/0269216319896955

Edwards Z. Pharmacist Educational interventions for patients with advanced cancer pain living in the community (thesis). 2019. Available at: https://bradscholars.brad.ac.uk/handle/10454/18753

Edwards Z, Bennett MI, Petty DR & Blenkinsopp A. Evaluating recruitment methods of patients with advanced cancer: a pragmatic opportunistic comparison. Int J Pharm Pract 2019;27(6):536–44. doi:10.1111/ijpp.12562

Edwards Z, Bennett MI & Blenkinsopp A. A community pharmacist medicines optimisation service for patients with advanced cancer pain: a proof of concept study. Int J Clin Pharm 2019;41(3):700–10. doi: 10.1007/s11096-019-00820-8

Edwards Z, Ziegler L, Craigs C, Blenkinsopp A & Bennett MI. Pharmacist educational interventions for cancer pain management: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Pharm Pract 2019;27(4):336–45. doi: 10.1111/ijpp12516

Edwards Z, Blenkinsopp A, Ziegler L & Bennett MI. How do patients with cancer pain view community pharmacy services? An Interview study. Health Soc Care Community 2018;26(4):507–18. doi:10.1111/hsc12549

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2024, Vol 312, No 7986;312(7986)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.319961

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