Press release

PATHS wins Big Society Award for services supporting homeless in Oxfordshire

Promoting Access To Health Services is the latest winner of a Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


PATHS - Promoting Access To Health Services, an initiative of ‘Oxford Homeless Pathways’ run by a group of 13 trained volunteers who support the patients of Luther Street Medical Centre, is the latest winner of a Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

PATHS was initially established to help reduce the significant non-attendance rates of hospital appointments by homeless and vulnerably housed people in Oxfordshire. The trained volunteers at PATHS assist those patients who need extra help in attending to their specific healthcare needs – for example accompanying them to appointments so that they get the best out of them, taking notes, or helping them with housing or job centre appointments. PATHS has proved so successful in Oxford, which is ranked as one of the cities with the highest number of people experiencing homelessness per capita outside of London, that the programme has been expanded to include additional support. The extended service PATHSPLUS now includes assistance for patients to attend appointments deemed to improve their overall sense of well-being.

Since the PATHS project was initiated:

  • 418.5 hours have been given by the volunteers to take clients to hospital appointments since May 2010
  • 286.5 hours have been given since PATHSPLUS started in December 2012
  • volunteers have helped 331 clients attend hospital appointments

Commenting on the Award, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Being able to get to the doctor, dentist or a hospital appointment is especially important for homeless and vulnerable people who can often have complex health needs. Many of us take medical appointments for granted, but for some people making the best use of them can be a real challenge. The hundreds of hours of time PATHS volunteers have given have made a real difference to people when they needed it most. This Big Society Award recognises that achievement and I hope PATHS continues to grow and help even more people get the health care they need.

PATHS Volunteer, Helen Wright, said:

I am extremely proud of the work that is done through PATHS. This award is about the volunteers receiving the recognition for all the hard work and commitment they deliver on a constant basis and I hope they realise the difference they make to people’s lives. We will continue to keep moving the project forward and giving everything we can to support our homeless community here in Oxford. Our work is about empowering people who often feel worthless and hopefully we can help other organisations create support for people they work with by sharing our experience and our training. Thank you to everyone involved but especially the volunteers I have such pleasure in working with.

The volunteers are an invaluable resource, providing insights into the patient’s needs; this insight led to the formation of the Patient Participation Group to help influence the way they receive health and social care, both at the surgery and within the wider local NHS and social care environments. The PATHS volunteers have also helped ensure that as many patients as possible attend the annual TB bus for screening, and Oxford now has significantly lower levels of incidents of homelessness with TB reported than the rest of the country.

Luther Street Medical Centre, a specialist NHS GP surgery for people experiencing homelessness in Oxford, is part of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. Promoting Access To Health Services (PATHS) was created after a successful application for funding to the Department of Health by the Luther Street Medical Centre, which serves a patient population of over 500 people.

Attendance rates at health related appointments for the homeless patients of Luther Street Medical Centre have improved by almost 100%.

Notes for editors

Images available upon request.

For media enquiries please contact:

Lucy Windmill – Big Society Network

Phone: 0207 8545 895


Oxford Homeless Pathways (OxHoP) works alongside a network of organisations to provide complementary services for homeless people in Oxfordshire.

Oxford Homeless Pathways launched PATHS as a volunteer project to provide vital support for vulnerable patients who attend Luther Street Medical Centre and the residents of O’Hanlon House and Julian Housing.

PATHS is managed by a part time volunteer co-ordinator who is employed by OXHOP, a charity who works closely with the medical centre and operates the hostel next door.


Luther Street Medical Centre:

Oxford Health:

Information about homelessness outside of London was obtained from the Indices of Deprivation 2010, Oxford City Council.

Information regarding TB incidents reported with homelessness was cited by Jonathan McWilliam, County Chief of 2012.

On the Big Society Awards

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrates the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.

The award focuses upon three specific areas:

Outstanding Contribution to Community

  • people, projects and organisations that enable communities to drive change themselves
  • projects and organisations that allow the community to identify solutions
  • people, projects and organisations that inspire others to contribute to their community

Improving Lives and Society through Innovation, Collaboration and New Partnerships

  • people and organisations taking new approaches to public services
  • successful collaboration and partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector - working together to benefit communities

Engaging in Social Action

  • people, projects and organisations taking action in their community
  • working together for social change (e.g. through creating groups, campaigns, movements)
  • generosity of time, money, skills and other resources – in support of social action

Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:

There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.

These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.

Nominations come in from the general public after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by civil servants and a further short-listing by a Panel of Ministers and independent external experts. This Panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister who makes the final decisions about who to make the award to. Twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting and then announced once a week throughout the year.

79 winners have been announced to date, including:

Cool2Care is a childcare introductory service that recruits, screens and trains care-workers (Personal Assistants, PAs), bringing together families with disabled children or young adults and people who want to work caring for them.

CALLplus is a charity providing emotional support and home based practical help to people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

West Withlawburn Housing Co-operative owns 644 properties for let and owns and supports the operation and development of a thriving Community Resource Centre for social, recreational, educational and economic development needs of the community. The Co-operative’s mission is to provide high quality housing and ancillary housing services to people in need at an affordable rent.

Bluecat Initative is a non-profit organisation that helps the most socially excluded people to develop the skills required to re-engage with society; progess into employment and lead healthy safe an fulfilling lives.

For a full list of winners visit

Published 21 June 2013