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Physiotherapy lecturer scoops Intensive Care Society's Researcher of the Year award


Brunel University London's Dr Eve Corner has won the Intensive Care Society's prestigious Researcher of the Year award in recognition of how a scoring system she developed has had a big impact on improving the healthcare of patients on intensive care units.

Dr Corner developed the Chelsea Critical Care Physical Assessment Tool, known as CPAx, during her PhD when she spotted that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on rehabilitation after critical illness would be enhanced by an assessment tool to enable regular clinical assessment of a patient's physical function.

First piloted in 2012 – and rigorously tested, validated and refined since – CPAx is easy to use and teach, and easy to implement, with at least 100 UK hospitals using it, and many more worldwide.

The tool takes a clinician – a doctor, physiotherapist or other allied healthcare professional – through ten different aspects of how the patient is doing. It encompasses how effectively the patient breathes and coughs, their grip strength, and how well they perform movements such as rolling in their bed and transferring from their bed to the chair. Each aspect is graded from Level 0 to 5 and – what makes it even more useful – is displayed on a circular chart for an instant pictorial impression of a patient’s physical function and progress over time.


Example of the CPAx radar chart. This image demonstrates that this patient’s respiratory function, cough, and bed mobility are strong, and his rehabilitation should be tailored to work on gait re-education, and on transferring from bed to chair, and from sit to stand. (Source)

Patients like CPAx because they can identify problem areas, set rehabilitation goals and track their recovery. Their motivation is welcomed by the multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, who have also found CPAx provides a common language with patients and within the team, provides a consistent approach, and makes rehabilitation and recovery more tailored and meaningful to everyone.

Dr Corner, a critical care physiotherapist who works part time on the Health Education England-funded CLEAR project alongside being a physiotherapy lecturer at Brunel, was up against stiff competition and was "honoured, surprised and grateful" to get the award, which the Intensive Care Society – the UK's largest critical care charity – usually awards to a team, rather than to an individual.

"They awarded it to me because of the impact my work has had," Dr Corner said. "My score is being used internationally and has been translated and validated into multiple languages" – including Danish, German, Japanese, Swedish and Spanish, with 15 Spanish-speaking countries using it.

"It's an honour to have that recognised by a professional, learned society," she added.

The award comes at the end of a busy year for Dr Corner, who, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, was the Brunel lead on a team that rapidly designed and developed a training programme to teach hundreds of medical staff new life-saving critical care skills. This work has resulted in her having been nominated for the Health Service Journal's Regional Covid-19 Response Partnership Award, so further recognition may follow when winners are announced next year.

With the pandemic depriving the Intensive Care Society of the black-tie event it usually holds, Dr Corner received her award at a virtual ceremony.

Prof Paul Hellewell, Brunel's Vice-Provost and Dean of College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, remarked at how fitting the award was: "Dr Corner is an inspirational role model to physiotherapist professionals and students alike, especially because she has always remained in clinical roles whilst carrying out her research and lecturing.

"She has demonstrated the significant impact allied healthcare professionals can make in research, and is an asset not only to Brunel and the NHS, but to the physiotherapy profession worldwide."

The Chelsea Critical Care Physical Assessment Tool (CPAx) is explained in detail in .

Find out more about physiotherapy research and education at Brunel.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821