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Dr Nicola Boydell is currently a THIS Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Usher Institute, and Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society, at the University of Edinburgh. A social scientist working at the intersections of medical sociology, critical public health and healthcare improvement research, Nicola’s programme of engaged research seeks to expand and advance understandings of what works, in what contexts and why, in designing and improving sexual and reproductive health services. It does this explicitly through engagement with, and involvement of, patients, service users and other stakeholders using qualitative and collaborative approaches to research. Nicola’s areas of expertise include: qualitative methods and analysis; engaged and participatory research methods; healthcare improvement and health services research; and collaboration with clinical and community health practitioners.


  • Funded by The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute, Nicola is currently the PI of a collaborative project focusing on the application of participatory approaches in service improvement within sexual and reproductive health services https://www.thisinstitute.cam.ac.uk/about/people/dr-nicola-boydell/ The project is informed by participatory approaches to healthcare improvement research, and is exploring how sexual and reproductive healthcare design and improvement is currently practiced. The project is being developed in collaboration with service users and providers, and will work towards the co-design of practical resources that can be used to support the involvement of other service users in work to improve sexual and reproductive health services.
  • With Drs Harden (UoE), Reynolds-Wright and Prof. Sharon Cameron (NHS Lothian, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health) Nicola has secured funding for the 18-month, SCOPE Study ("Service Co-Design to Enhance Post-Abortion Contraception Access and Uptake in Scotland"). Starting in early 2024, the study will collaborate with patients and abortion care providers to co-design post-abortion contraceptive (PAC) services. This collaborative project aims to reduce inequalities in PAC access and address the diverse needs of people seeking abortion across Scotland. The project builds on their recent qualitative study exploring the experiences of people accessing post-abortion contraceptive services in NHS Lothian (2022).
  • Between 2021 and 2023, Nicola was co-investigator (PI - Prof Sharon Cameron) on a Scotland-wide evaluation of early medical abortion. In this role, she led a workstream based on her THIS Fellowship qualitative research with abortion care providers across Scotland, examining the changes implemented in response to COVID-19. This study contributed to informing the Scottish Government's recommendations regarding future provision of Early Medical Abortion at Home (EMAH).The evaluation project built on findings from Nicola's previous research as Co-Investigator (PI- Dr Jeni Harden) on an NHS Lothian funded study exploring the perspectives of both women and health professionals on a telemedicine Early Medical Abortion (EMA) service introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary objectives were to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on experiences of EMA at home and to evaluate the acceptability of the telemedicine abortion service among women and health professionals. The aim was to identify opportunities for service improvement and to enhance support for people undergoing EMA.
  • Previous projects include a qualitative evaluation of the implementation of a new service for the provision of immediate postpartum intrauterine contraception (PPIUC) in a public maternity service. PPIUC involves the provision of intrauterine contraception (to women who choose this method) within the first 48 hours after childbirth. This qualitative evaluation explored the experience and provision of PPIUC in two maternity hospital settings from the perspectives of women and health care professionals with the aim of identifying areas for improvement and informing PPIUC service provision in other UK maternity services

Research Interests

Nicola’s research interests include: social aspects of health and illness, particularly sexual and reproductive health; the application of participatory research methods; engaging and involving communities in health research; and applied, policy relevant, healthcare improvement research.


  • 2015 PhD “Personal communities and safer sex: A qualitative study of young gay and bisexual men in Scotland”, University of Glasgow
  • 2011 MSc Social Science Research, University of Glasgow
  • 2010 PgCert Public Health Studies, Queen Margaret University
  • 2008 BSc (Hons) Sociology and Psychology (First Class), Queen Margaret University


  • Dr Boydell supervises undergraduate students (BMedSci, BMTO Honours programmes), Masters' level students on Master of Public Health Programmes (on-campus and online) and PhD students within CMVM at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Dr Boydell is currently a course co-ordinator on the Master of Public Health Programme (on-campus) at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Dr Boydell is also a guest lecturer on the Intercalated BMedSci in Bioethics, Law and Society and tutors on SEAM (Social and Ethical Aspects of Medicine) modules as part of the MBChB undergraduate medical programme within the University of Edinburgh Medical School.


  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • HM Sociology


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