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20/97 evaluation of the roll out and uptake of ASSIST-Lite: Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Tool



Closing date: Wednesday 2 December 2020 at 13:00 (one stage application)

The HS&DR programme is interested in receiving applications to undertake a robust evaluation of the use and implementation of the ASSIST-Lite, a risk identification tool to detect risky alcohol and drug use, and tobacco smoking. It will be launched in October 2020 including its addition to the NHS mental health services dataset (MHSDS), and so it is services reporting to the MHSDS which are to be the focus of this call. However, learning from this initial roll out will need to be sufficiently generalisable as to be applicable to other settings such as other health and social care and criminal justice settings.

ASSIST-Lite is a shortened version of the ASSIST developed for the World Health Organization. The ASSIST-Lite has been modified and licensed for use in health and social care settings throughout the UK. The ASSIST-Lite tool is copyrighted and permission to use it must be requested by using the processes outlined and overseen by NHS Digital. Two versions of the ASSIST-Lite have been developed: one for use in mental health settings and another for use in all other health and social care settings. Both these versions of the tool have been adapted from the original to incorporate the alcohol use disorders identification test - consumption (AUDIT-C) for identifying health risk from alcohol consumption. Data from the ASSIST-Lite tool can be submitted to the mental health services dataset from 1st October 2020.

The ASSIST-Lite tool is validated in terms of sensitivity and specificity and as such suggesting changes to the risk identification tool’s questions and scoring is out of scope. Therefore, the questions the HS&DR programme would like addressed include:

  • Variation of uptake
  • Different models of implementation
  • Service user experience and acceptability
  • Access to the tool
  • Learning of the above at a sub-group analysis level; to include underserved populations and how the tool works for them in respect of the roll out
    How health inequalities are addressed through how the tool is used and the context in which it is used

These are not an exclusive or exhaustive set of areas of enquiry. Given the existing evidence base for alcohol and tobacco identification (and brief advice), HS&DR is particularly interested in findings in relation to the drug risk identification elements of the tool.

Proposals are likely to be for mixed methods studies. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate how they plan to work in partnership with key stakeholders such as the services first using the tool as well as service users and commissioners both national and local. Careful consideration should be given as to how the research will be co-designed, taking into account primary care and clinical governance requirements.

Proposals must demonstrate how they fulfil the need for outcomes to influence future uptake of the tool; providing insight around adoption and adaption according to the needs of service users and those using the tool, and how this fits into care or service pathways.

The programme expects interim outputs during the life of the project to allow the research to inform on-going roll out of the tool to other settings. Applicants are required to demonstrate their ability to produce evidence at speed whilst still paying attention to the need for rigorous and credible research.

Details of the tools and guidance are now available via this link. This should provide all of the information you require; any general queries for PHE around the use of screening tools can be addressed via (all queries around the details of, and process relating to, this call should go to

Please note this is a single stage assessment process and guidance to applicants needs to be carefully followed. The programme is likely to fund one study from this call.

Essential instructions for applicants

The application process has been shortened for this call to enable the successful research team(s) to start as soon as possible. Therefore, applicants will need to be aware of the following timeline:

Call open: Wednesday 16th September 2020
Call close: 1pm on Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Remit and competitive decision notification: Mid-December 2020
Funding decision notification: Mid-February 2021
Start date: 1st April 2021 (this is the preferred start date or as fast as practicable)

Proposals should have an anticipated start date of no later than March 2021.

The commissioning process for this call is one-stage, therefore applicants should directly submit an online Stage 2 application; the deadline is 1pm on Wednesday 2nd December 2020. In addition, applicants are requested to inform the programme of their intention to submit, via email to by Monday 2nd November. Queries relating to this call should be sent to the same address, with the call name in the subject line. No late proposals or paper-based submissions will be considered. The programme will not be able to answer questions sent in less than five working days before the closing date.

All proposals will initially be checked for remit and competitiveness, prior to consideration by the HS&DR committee in January 2021. Applicants will be informed of outcomes by mid-February 2021.

Please see the HS&DR pages for details of the application and assessment process, and information about the programme.