In this blog series we will be featuring our award winners and highly commended recipients from the Faculty’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to PPIE’ awards. Showcasing the inspirational and outstanding commitment to PPIE that has made a positive difference to our community and highlighting the amazing events, activities, people and groups from across the Faculty.

Our second blog in this series will feature a project which explored access to primary care during Covid-19 for people experiencing homelessness. The team won the Staff category for the 2021 PPIE awards.

People experiencing homelessness have higher levels of co-morbidity and shorter life expectancy with the average age of death for a man being 47 years old and for a woman 43 years old. Despite high levels of health and social care needs, people experiencing homelessness often have poor access to services which leads to their health declining further. They often face barriers, and stigma is also a hurdle which can mean the experience of services is poor. This can cause problems such as:

  • Lack of continuity of care
  • Difficulties in transitions between services
  • Discharge back to the streets, which has been highlighted as having a major impact on prolonged suffering and preventable deaths.

As there was a need to conduct many healthcare appointments remotely (such as by phone or video) during the pandemic, it highlighted additional inequalities for people experiencing homelessness as they may not have access to the necessary technology required.

Researchers Kelly Howells and Caroline Sanders from the NIHR GM Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (GM PSTRC) are working in partnership with Martin Burrows and Mat Amp from Groundswell. Groundswell is a charity that works with people experiencing homelessness, offering opportunities to contribute to society and create solutions to homelessness.

The project involved designing, conducting and analysing interviews with people experiencing homelessness to investigate the impact of these changes and to understand how best to address inequalities that could otherwise become worse. It also included contacting key staff and stakeholders who provide services (service providers e.g. GPs, charities, commissioners) to discuss how they support people experiencing homelessness.

The team worked together by liaising via telephone and zoom, plus hosting workshops with an advisory group of people with experience of homelessness. The outcome of these discussions is being used to co-design a guide for improving patient safety and the experiences of services for those experiencing homelessness and other under-served groups.

This work has been an exemplary partnership of shared learning and expertise and without it, it wouldn’t have been possible to successfully conduct this research.

Find out more:

To find out more about PPIE: watch our short film, sign up to the monthly Public Engagement Digest, visit the PPIE blog, or contact

To read more about other PPIE Award winners visit here