Transformation Partners in Health and Care > News > London healthcare leader honoured for work to help people experiencing rough sleeping during pandemic

London healthcare leader honoured for work to help people experiencing rough sleeping during pandemic

A London health leader who has played a key role in the response to COVID-19 in the capital has been awarded an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021.

Jemma Gilbert, who has led efforts to protect the city’s large and extremely vulnerable homeless population on behalf of the NHS, is recognised for services to healthcare in London during the pandemic.

As Transformation Director at Healthy London Partnership since its inception in 2015, Jemma has led several core initiatives to improve health and care for Londoners – achieving significant transformation in areas from homeless health and obesity to sexual health through effective partnership working, linking public and private sectors.

Since the onset of the pandemic, she has played a crucial role leading the London-wide response by health and care organisations to some of its most vulnerable citizens.

As a result of this collaborative work:

  • Large numbers of people experiencing rough sleeping in London have been given safe and secure accommodation, as well as vital health and care support, during the pandemic.
  • Covid infection rates among those sleeping rough in London were well below those in many other international cities where people were not ‘brought in’ and cared for.
  • Some of the city’s most vulnerable residents were able to undergo medical respite and had to access intensive support to address their health, housing and social needs.
  • Provision of safe accommodation for homeless people – among the most excluded and hardest to reach in society – has enabled successful testing and treatment programmes to be run for blood-borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis and TB.
  • A comprehensive health and care needs assessment programme is now under way for these residents which ensures the right wrap-around care as they move on.
  • New relationships have been developed, with increased collaboration across boroughs, which will benefit ongoing and future work to support homeless people.

Jemma, who lives in Bow in east London, said her honour was testament to the huge collective effort that underpinned the work she led.

She said: “Leading London’s health response for those experiencing rough sleeping during COVID-19 will be one of the greatest achievements of my lifetime.  It has been my absolute honour to serve alongside others through this COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are so many courageous organisations and people who deserve to be acknowledged.  I am extremely grateful to those colleagues and partners who felt the part I played was deserving of an OBE nomination.

“When people find themselves homeless it is often the result of multiple life events that have left them with internalised trauma and self-stigma. A fair and compassionate society is one that shows them that they have value, providing them with resources and a reignited sense of pride and purpose.

“I believe that is what we were able to achieve during covid for those Londoners experiencing rough sleeping.  The dignity of their own bedroom, bathroom and food.  The increased ability to protect themselves from covid. The health, care and supporting services to help them think more towards their future and consider new offers of housing.

“Protecting people experiencing rough sleeping from covid was a concerted effort with so many incredible individuals. Without all of them we would have seen many more deaths among this population.  I hold them all in the highest esteem and I’m so proud of what we have achieved and the lives we saved together.”

The decision to honour Jemma was welcomed by Baroness Casey of Blackstock, former Chair of the government’s Covid-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce.

Dame Louise said: “I am delighted that the pivotal role Jemma played in getting homeless people off the streets and into hotels during Covid-19 has been recognised in this honours list. It is truly well deserved.

“Without her tireless endeavour to put the health of homeless people at the centre of that work, many more homeless people would have suffered with Covid-19 and many would have died. The NHS and all public services are very proud of Jemma indeed.”


Notes for editors:

  • Photo caption: Jemma Gilbert, Director of Transformation at Healthy London Partnership has been awarded an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to healthcare in the capital during the pandemic.
  • Healthy London Partnership (HLP) aims to make London the healthiest global city by working collaboratively to improve Londoners’ health and wellbeing so everyone can live healthier lives. HLP is part of NHS NEL CSU and our partners include the NHS in London (clinical commissioning groups, Health Education England, NHS England, NHS Digital, NHS Improvement, trusts and providers), the Greater London Authority, the Mayor of London, Public Health England, and London Councils. For more information, visit our website here.

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Jemma Gilbert - Director of Transformation

Jemma Gilbert

Director of Transformation