Debbie Tolson

Professor, PhD MSc BSc(Hons) FRCN PFHEA RGN, Alzheimer Scotland Professor of Dementia, Director Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice, Director Institute for Healthcare Policy and Practice

Accepting PhD Students


Research output per year

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Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

Professor Debbie Tolson joined University of the West of Scotland as the inaugural Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice in January 2013. In addition to Centre Directorship she is the Assistant Dean Research and Enterprise within the School of Health, Nursing and Midwifery.   She is a nurse leader with an international reputation for advancing evidence informed dementia care and gerontological practice. 

In 2010 her contribution to research with older people was recognised by St Louis University (USA) Medical School through the award of the Jim Flood Memorial Alzheimer Disease Distinguished Lectureship. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing UK, and an Honorary Fellow of the Queen's Nursing Institute: Scotland. She was the recipient of the Sigma Theta Tau International, 2007 award for the Best of Worldviews on Evidence Based Nursing. Her research outputs include over 144 peer reviewed research papers, national care guidance for nurses and patients, edited books and book chapters, radio broadcasts, creative performance and popular press. She has secured research funding in excess of £6million   from a range of sources, including Research Council, Chief Scientist Office, EU, industry, UK and charitable organisations.

Current research activities

Current research studies focussed on living the best life possible with dementia.  Ranging from studies of the experience of people with early onset dementia who receive their diagnosis when employed, delirium management in acute hospitals, to studies with older people who have advanced to severe dementia. Education studies focus on equipping the qualified dementia workforce with the skills they need to champion reform and best practice where they work.  All studies are applied and seek to inform both practice and policy for example our European Project - Dementia Palliare. 

Contributions to rapid Covid studies include investigations of the impact of care home lock down on family carers and membership of the Scottish CHARIS Consortium.

Desired research direction

Our priority within the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice at UWS is to generate evidence to inform and advance policy and practice through an experienced based understanding of dementia and dementia care. Through our discoveries we deliver research based dementia education and workforce development programmes to improve practice locally and around the world.

We are particulalry keen to work collaboratively and involve all stakeholders to undertake mission driven research that aligns with the Global Sustainable Development Goals to address dementia related inequalites and through our scholarship improve the lives of all who are affected by dementia.




Target collaborative companies

We would like to work with family carers, individuals, care home providers, day care providers and technology based companies interested in dementia.  With first responders including fire, police and ambulance services and practitioners from criminal justice and prison services where an increasing number of people with cognitive impairments including people with dementia are finding themselves. 

External positions

Executive Board Member-Scottish Dementia Informatics Platform

2020 → …

Music in Hospitals and Care Scotland Committee

2019 → …

SDRC Living with Dementia Lead Researcher

2018 → …

Executive Member , Scottish Dementia

2014 → …


  • RT Nursing
  • Dementia
  • Gerontology

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Research Output

A cross sectional study of family caregiver burden and psychological distress linked to frailty and functional dependency of a relative with advanced dementia

de Abreu, W., Tolson, D., Jackson, G. & Costa, N., 1 Feb 2020, In : Dementia. 19, 2, p. 301-318 18 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 10 Citations (Scopus)
    216 Downloads (Pure)

    Changing needs in advanced dementia

    Brown, M., Tolson, D. & Ritchie, L., 28 Jul 2020, In : Nursing Older People. 32, 4, e1204.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 24 Downloads (Pure)

    Complementary therapy for advanced dementia palliation in nursing homes

    Mitchell, B., Jackson, G. A., Sharp, B. & Tolson, D., 16 Jun 2020, In : Journal of Integrated Care. 28, 4, p. 419-432 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 8 Downloads (Pure)

    Dementia, work and employability: using the capability approach to understand the employability potential for people living with dementia

    Ritchie, L., Egdell, V., Danson, M., Cook, M., Stavert, J. & Tolson, D., 1 Sep 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Work, Employment and Society. 39 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Introduction to living with advanced dementia series

    Brown, M. & Tolson, D., 1 Apr 2020, In : Nursing Older People. 32, 3, 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
    34 Downloads (Pure)


    • 1 Oral presentation

    A staff developed intervention for reducing agitation in residents living with dementia

    Edward Edgerton (Speaker), Debbie Tolson (Speaker) & Belinda Dewar (Speaker)

    2 Dec 20153 Dec 2015

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

    Press / Media

    BBC Wales Beti and David: Lost for Words

    Debbie Tolson, Anna Waugh, Margaret Brown & Barbara Sharp


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities