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Dr Ali Heawood

Qualitative health services research


I have a background in psychology and social science research methods, with particular interest and expertise in qualitative methods applied to the primary care context. I began my research career as a research associate in Primary Health Care at the University of Bristol in 1995, going on to gain my PhD from the University of Bristol (2001). I have worked in the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol since 2002, and am currently a Senior Research Fellow specialising in qualitative health services research methods. I previously held a Department of Health post-doctoral research fellowship (2003-6).


I have a long-standing interest in primary care as a research context and specialise in applied qualitative research, conducted either stand-alone or combined with quantitative methods, such as randomised controlled trials. I work across a range of themes within the Centre for Academic Primary care, including studies relating to organsiation and delivery of care, urgent care, medicines optimisation and the primary care response to domestic violence. I typically take the role of (qualitative) methodologist on grant applications and have considerable experience designing and managing qualitative research within large mixed methods evaluations. Methods used include: in-depth interviews, focus groups, observation, and audio-recording and analysis of practitioner-patient interactions using methods such as Conversation Analysis. I am also interested in the synthesis of existing qualitative evidence using methods such as meta-ethnography. I am an affiliated member of the MRC ConDuCT-II Trials Methodology Hub based at the University of Bristol and a senior methodologist linked to Bristol Randomised Trial Collaboration. As both Principal and Co-Investigator, I have been awarded research grants from several major funders including: the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health and the Bupa Foundation. I have a wide range of publications in high quality peer reviewed journals, both as lead and co-author (publish as Shaw). I review qualitative papers for a range of journals and have external roles sitting as an independent member on Trial and Programme Steering Committees.

Teaching and mentoring

I enjoy and have considerable experience of PhD supervision and mentorship of post-doctoral researchers. I have taught postgraduates and health professionals about qualitative research methods, notably through short methodology courses run within the School of Social and Community Medicine. I co-designed and co-led a short course on using qualitative research to optimise randomised controlled trials for a number of years. I also mentor clinical academic trainees and more junior social scientists undertaking qualitative research projects and have been training lead for primary care scientists within the Centre for Academic Primary Care. I have experience of being external examiner for both Masters degrees and PhDs. 


Research keywords

  • Qualitative research methods
  • evaluation of health care
  • evaluation of trials
  • patient experience of health care
  • patient perspective
  • primary care
  • doctor-patient relationships
  • organisation and delivery of care