Karen obtained a BNurs degree from Manchester. She completed a PhD in Social Science and Nursing at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently the Queen's Nursing Institute Professor of Community in the School of Health Sciences. She is also the Deputy Director of the NIHR CLAHRC for Greater Manchester NHS Trusts and the University of Manchester.
Karen is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and was awarded a fellowship of the Queen’s Nursing Institute in 2003, and in 2010 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Lund Sweden and in 2011 an Honorary DSc from University of Alberta Canada in recognition of her contribution to health care research and research capacity building. She has reviewed on a wide range of national and International research committees including MRC Health Services and Public Health Research Board and three RAE/REF Panels and equivalent panels in New Zealand (PBRF).From 2017-20 she is a member of the Swedish Research Councils Health Sciences Review panel. In addition she edits the Journal Health and Social Care in the Community published by Wiley/Blackwell Publishing. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong and University of Auckland, New Zealand.