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Expanding diversity - Highlight notice for varied research approaches to address National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and NIHR priorities in multiple long-term conditions (MLTC)


Published: 10 February 2022

Version: v2.0 - February 2022

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The Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) and Programme Development Grant (PDG) (Stream A) programmes are inviting ambitious, diverse proposals from eligible individuals and research teams for collaborative research projects to address priorities for understanding, preventing and managing multiple long-term conditions (MLTC). Applications are welcomed that include populations with a high disease burden and those that have been historically under-served by NIHR research activity, and proposals that address equality, diversity and inclusion.

  • This supports PGfAR's and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's (NICE) shared willingness to see more high-quality non-trial based evidence incorporated into national guidelines. It also builds on PGfAR’s strategy to support research programmes using diverse methods, as well as driving innovation in approaches to patient and public involvement (PPIE). See our Programme Director's blog for examples of proposals funded under the recent call for diverse proposals.
  • PGfAR offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on a range of approaches to address relevant topics carried out in any healthcare, social care or public health settings, providing that they fall within the remit of this notice.
  • This highlight notice specifically welcomes applications from co-ordinated multidisciplinary teams of investigators spanning relevant health and social care, and public health disciplines, and public and charitable contributors, bringing together all the skills and expertise, experiences and perspectives necessary to deliver the research proposed. We are particularly keen to see proposals that incorporate diverse approaches and aim to take forwards methodological innovation in the applied health and social care research arenas.
  • We are keen to encourage experiential learning and capability development in professions; in health and social care settings and in geographical locations currently under-represented in applied health and social care research. Hence, we encourage applications from less established /experienced teams, professions or Centres in partnership more experienced groups or individuals as part of a collaborative application
  • The initiative will run throughout 2022 as a highlight notice against PGfAR funding calls 38 (February), 39 (June) and 40 (November) and PDG funding rounds 33 (March), 34 (July) and 35 (November).


Addressing the personal, population and service challenges presented by multiple long-term conditions (MLTC) is a local and national priority and a major strategic priority for NIHR. NIHR has published is Strategic Framework for MLTC Research.

Various other bodies, including NICE and James Lind Alliance have also identified research priorities over the last few years and these form part of a Centre for Engagement and Dissemination review that presents a helpful background to this highlight notice.

Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) and Programme Development Grant (PDG) are committed to funding applications that identify and tackle the health and social care problems and outcomes that matter most to populations, patients/service users and carers.


The PGfAR and PDG (for applications to develop a research programme) programmes are inviting collaborative proposals from health, social care and public health communities that seek to investigate innovative, holistic approaches to understanding, preventing and/or managing MLTC at population or individual levels across the life course.

Applicants must clearly identify the research context of their proposal in terms of recent and currently funded UK and international research in the area and the potential impact of their proposed research for patients/service users, carers, communities and the NHS and social care settings.

Target populations should either fall under the NIHR definition or NICE definition of MLTC, or are those at increased risk of developing MLTC (e.g., people from ethnic backgrounds, those on a lower income and people experiencing intersectional inequalities, e.g. combining gender, ethnicity or disability to name only a few protected characteristics). NIHR has developed guidance on improving inclusion of under-served groups in clinical research: the INCLUDE framework (more infromation is available on the INCLUDE website).

Applications must include input and perspectives from a representative and inclusive population of those with lived experience of MLTC and address prevention, and/or strategies to reduce the impact of key biopsychosocial consequences such as reduced mobility, chronic pain, shrinking social networks, losing the ability to engage with work and lowered mental wellbeing. Links with relevant charitable sectors are encouraged.

While proposals must fall within the remit of the PGfAR and PDG programmes, the flexibility of these schemes offers the opportunity for research which demonstrates one or more of the following:

  • Demonstrates strong and sustainable partnership between practitioners, or their equivalent in Public Health/Social Care, patients/service users, carers and the public, academics as well as agencies with the remit and capacity to make change happen (ICS, policy makers, Academic Health Science Networks, Charitable sectors, Local Authorities etc.)
  • Brings together health and social care research communities to understand and address socio-economic and health research questions pertinent to MLTC
  • Incorporates specific strategies (with appropriate resource allocation) to ensure that research is carried out in geographical areas of greatest need, and involves a wide range of participants from varied socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and/or highest disease burden that have often been under-served by research
  • Explores and uses diverse methodological approaches (for example, such as economic modelling, qualitative approaches, applied epidemiology, enhancement of existing trials and population studies through longitudinal follow-up, rigorous comparative evaluation of existing prevention strategies and models of care and analysis of routine data sources etc.) to answer questions of importance to service users and carers. Work packages aimed at developing or testing innovative methodological approaches will be welcomed
  • Includes meaningful, inclusive and novel approaches to PPIE in terms of agreeing the research questions, developing and defining outcomes of importance to patients (qualitative and qualitative)
  • Leads to a stepped change in practice and/or outcomes
  • Include clear plans for implementation, knowledge mobilisation and dissemination of accrued outcomes and benefits.

We wish to fund proposals which are led by the needs of patients/service users, the public, carers and addresses at least one of the following:

  • Investigate patient/service user, carer centred approaches which shift the paradigm from management focussing on single conditions to integrated, holistic assessment and care across health and social care settings (horizontal integration)
  • Through co-production, tackles difficult issues such as appropriate reduction in polypharmacy; how to promote and support positive risk taking in care homes and the community; supporting people with MLTC and social care needs to stay active and independent
  • Utilise longitudinal studies or existing data sets to identify targets for preventative and treatment strategies at key stages across the life-course, and/or extending, enhancing or revisiting trial and population cohorts to better understand disease progression and potentially modifiable risk factors, bearing in mind the different patterns of MLTC in younger and older individuals
  • Specifically address issues linked to the interface between physical and mental wellbeing in both directions (i.e., burden of physical illness in those with mental health problems, as well as mental and emotional effects in individuals with physical illness)
  • Investigates wider consequences of MLTC beyond the impact on individuals, including impact on families and carers and impact on society, including families, carers, workplaces, and health and care services
  • Captures any additional insights on MLTC within any particular under-served groups that have been included in the research.

Themes of interest above are based on, but are not limited to, priorities identified by:


Proposals must fall within the scope of this highlight notice and the remit of the PGfAR programme and PDG programme (applications to develop a future research programme).

NOTE: PDG applications for the development of an ongoing programme are not eligible for this highlight notice.

This document must be read in conjunction with:

Call launch and networking

A webinar was held on 9 December 2021 to showcase and launch the initiative. If you would like access to the slides from the webinar please contact to request these. For more information on the highlight notice, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

There will be possible NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) roadshows throughout 2022 as further supporting activities.

How to apply

Proposals should be submitted online through the Research Management System. To help applicants prepare their proposal ahead of submission, word versions of application forms are available:

Only applications submitted online via the RMS will be accepted, however information can be copied from the Word template into the online application form. Please take care to comply with the maximum word counts.

Key dates

For further details, please visit:

Details for PGfAR funding rounds 39 and 40, and PDG funding round 34 that this highlight notice applies to will be published in due course.

Contact information

Applicants who require further guidance may wish to submit a pre-submission enquiry form. General questions about the call should be addressed to