Dr Alexis Foster

BA, MSc, PhD

Population Health, School of Medicine and Population Health

Senior Research Fellow

Research Design Service Advisor

+44 114 222 6129

Full contact details

Dr Alexis Foster
Population Health, School of Medicine and Population Health
3012, Regent Court
Regent Court (ScHARR)
30 Regent Street
S1 4DA

I am a mixed methods researcher specialising in third sector organisations including charities and community groups. I use participatory research approaches to ensure that my research involves stakeholders and influences practice. I have worked as a researcher since 2011, mainly based in the Health and Care Research Unit. Before then, I worked in and with the third sector. I am still actively involved in the third sector including as a charity trustee.

Recent/current projects include:

NIHR Research Fellow (2021-2022)- I am a NIHR Research Fellow exploring different methods of evaluation within the third sector. This develops my NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow work, where I conducted a mixed methods study working with a variety of stakeholders to explore the implementation of outcomes measures including supporting organisations with using them. Outputs included a toolkit: https://issuu.com/niftyfoxcreative/docs/proms_booklet_final

Evaluation of the national Green Social Prescribing Project- Funded by DEFRA and NHS England, I am part of a multi-university team evaluating green social prescribing within England. I am leading a work package focused on developing the collection and use of process and outcome data within social prescribing projects and green activities.

Evaluations of wellbeing interventions- I regularly undertake Knowledge Exchange projects where I evaluate wellbeing services on behalf of the NHS and charities. For example, evaluating the British Red Cross Community Connector programme and a Primary Care Network’s mental health provision.

Supporting the workforce- I led a review identifying interventions that were used to support mental health nurses manage workplace stress. I am currently developing research focused on the third sector workforce.

Stakeholder Involvement- I am passionate about ensuring stakeholders are actively involved in research studies especially patients and members of the public. I am currently the stakeholder lead for a health literacy and for a study exploring the use of pre-alerts for ambulance staff.

Research Design Service- I work as an advisor for the Research Design Service. I support researchers and practitioners with developing their study ideas. I specialise in social care and public health research. For example, leading the RDS support for the NIHR call on Extending Working Lives.

Journal articles- I have published over 20 articles on a variety of topics including 6 as lead author. The articles report on a range of methods, especially mixed methods and reviews. They have been published in a number of journals including the BMJ. Selected publications from the last 5 years include:
• Foster A, Clowes M & Wood E (2021) Identifying the evidence base of interventions supporting mental health nurses to cope with stressful working environments: a scoping review. Journal of Nursing Management.
• Foster A, Thompson J, Holding E, Ariss S, Mukuria C, Jacques R, Akparido R & Haywood A (2020) Impact of social prescribing to address loneliness: a mixed methods evaluation of a national social prescribing programme. Health & Social Care in the Community.
• Foster A, OCathain A & Harris J (2020) How do third sector organisations or charities providing health and wellbeing services in England implement patient reported outcome measures (PROMs)?: A qualitative interview study. BMJ Open, 10.
Foster A, Croot L, Brazier J, Harris J & O'Cathain A (2018) The facilitators and barriers to implementing patient reported outcome measures in organisations delivering health related services: a systematic review of reviews. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes.


BA (Politics and Social Studies), 1st Class Hons- University of Sheffield
MPH- Distinction- University of Sheffield
PhD- Health Services Research, University of Sheffield

Research interests

My key area of interest is the third sector. I evaluate third sector delivered interventions and explore sector-wide issues including workforce development needs and impact measurement.

I have experience of a range of research methods including qualitative, randomised controlled trials, secondary analysis and reviews. I am passionate about using mixed-methods which draw upon participatory approaches.


Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

Research group

Medical Care Research Unit, ScHARR


I have been successful at securing two NIHR fellowships including a Doctoral Fellowship exploring the implementing of outcomes measures in third sector organisations (2017-2020).

I have secured funding both as a Principal Investigator and Co-Applicant to evaluate wellbeing services delivered by third sector organisations. This includes for DEFRA, Cruse bereavement and the British Red Cross.

I have been a co-applicant on a number of research projects where I am responsible for leading stakeholder engagement and the co-production elements of the study. For example: NIHR HS&DR Project (Co-app) - Identifying health literacy interventions that reduce the use of primary care and emergency services for minor problems: a systematic review (2020-2021).

Teaching interests

I am involved in the teaching on the Master's in Public Health especially in relation to knowledge mobilisation and third sector related dissertations.

Teaching activities

I am involved in delivering various aspects of Master level programs in ScHARR including:
• Deputy module lead- Knowledge mobilisation in healthcare
• Delivering teaching, supervising and marking dissertations for the Masters in Public Health/Masters in Clinical Research students.
• Personal tutor to Master’s level students.
• Providing research attachments for undergraduate medical students.
• Leading a peer network for supervisors of qualitative post-graduate dissertations.

Much of my teaching involves taking a collaborative approach with community organisations, providing opportunities for students to get hands on experience of addressing health and wellbeing through taking a holistic wellbeing approach. For example, organising dissertation placements at local charities

Professional activities and memberships

I am a member of ScHARR’s Athena SWAN Committee.

I sit on the Executive for the Centre for Wellbeing in Public Policy.

I review funding applications for the NIHR and review articles for a variety of journals.

I mentor early career researchers and clinicians/ public health workers.