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The Research Capability Programme

News update: HRSS pilot provides its first research study with linked, anonymised data 

The NIHR Research Capability Programme is delivering the Health Research Support Service (HRSS) and the pilot HRSS. The HRSS is a ground-breaking service to help researchers analyse a wide range of healthcare data, that should lead to more effective treatments and improved health outcomes.

Information for patients about the pilot Health Research Support Service

The vision of the Research Capability Programme is to:

  • Enable better health outcomes for the public and patients, achieved at best value for the taxpayer.
  • Support the ambition to make the UK the preferred place to carry out medical research, by building a nationwide health data and information platform that will enable health research to reach maximum potential benefit.

This will be achieved by providing a Health Research Support Service that enables high quality research directed towards improving health outcomes, effective treatments, patient safety and quality of life.

The Government's Plan for Growth published in March 2011, announced that plans would be published in the autumn setting out the path for implementation of a viable and affordable research data service based on the work of the Research Capability Programme.

The Plan for Growth said:
4) The Government will build a consensus on using e-health record data to create a unique position for the UK in health research.

2.198 The NHS could offer unique opportunities for this country’s international competitiveness in health research. Government can create the capacity to draw on the power of large linked data sets on a scale unprecedented here or elsewhere in the world. This would create unique opportunities for research in the UK, including more powerful uses of anonymised data sets and aggregated prescription data linked down to GP practice level. That can happen only if there is robust protection for individual patients' confidentiality and privacy. Enabling access through a managed health research data service would support clinical innovation and strengthen evidence of effectiveness, improving health outcomes. The Government will work with the National Information Governance Board and partners in the public and private sectors to publish plans by the autumn for a secure data service that is viable and affordable, and is focussed on linking the data sets which do most to strengthen the international competitiveness of our life sciences research.


The Health Research Support Service

The Health Research Support Service (HRSS) is to be a national service, which will help researchers analyse a wide range of health-care information. The HRSS will use this information and link it together for researchers to carry out studies. Through these studies, researchers will be able to analyse patterns and solutions that help make treatments more effective and improve the quality of care.

The HRSS will protect the privacy of patients by removing certain identifying details, for example, their name and address, before the researcher is allowed to use the information. The HRSS will also make sure that the researchers carrying out the study have all the relevant permission and approvals before they are able to use the information.

  Health Research Support Service leaflet

The HRSS pilot programme
The first stage of the HRSS, known as the HRSS pilot programme will conclude in 2011. The pilot HRSS aims to:

  • show the service can work
  • see how the service could help patients for example by finding ways to make health research easier for patients and the public to understand
  • get feedback from people taking part in the pilot and use this information to help us develop the service in the future.

News updates about the HRSS and e-newsletters are available on Programme Resources.

Patient and Public Involvement
The Research Capability Programme (RCP) is committed to including Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in all aspects of the programme to ensure a patient-centred approach is taken while maintaining and protecting patient data.

Programme documents
The Programme has developed a number of technical documents as part of the development stages and these are available for view.
Programme documents