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21/541 Medication support interventions and strategies for people with learning disabilities



The aim of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme is to ensure that high quality research information on the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests are produced in the most efficient way for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS and social care services. The commissioned workstream invites applications in response to calls for research on specific questions which have been identified and prioritised for their importance to the NHS, patients and social care.

Research question

What are the effective and cost-effective support interventions and strategies for people with learning disabilities who use medications for long-term conditions?

  1. Intervention: Any interventions and strategies to encourage, support, or facilitate appropriate usage of medications.
  2. Patient group: People with learning disabilities who use medications for long-term conditions. Individuals living independently and those living with carers or other supported services should be evaluated separately.
  3. Setting: Any appropriate setting.
  4. Study design: Evidence synthesis through a comprehensive review of the available evidence, including quantitative, qualitative and other relevant research. Applicants should suggest and justify the most appropriate methods for the evidence synthesis.
  5. Outcomes and outputs: A summary of the existing evidence; interventions and definitions.
  6. Other outcomes and outputs to consider: Facilitators and barriers to appropriate medication usage; health related quality of life; healthcare resource use; identification of promising interventions that could be tested further; recommendations for possible future primary research. Subgroup analyses should be undertaken as appropriate. 


Many people with learning disabilities have more healthcare needs than the general population. This may include long-term conditions that require regular use of medications. Self-management of a long-term condition is a complex process that people, in general, do not find easy. Following medication regimens can be challenging, especially for people with learning disabilities and for their carers, and deviation from the prescribed regimen is very common across all patient groups.

NICE, in their guideline on medicines adherence (CG76), stress the importance of identifying and providing the support that patients need to appropriately use their medication. The guideline offers comprehensive advice for clinicians to support their patients in managing their medications. However, no specific advice is provided for the additional challenges faced by many people with learning disabilities.

There is a need for a better understanding of effective interventions and strategies that encourage, support, or facilitate appropriate medication usage by people with learning disabilities and their informal or professional carers.          

Hence the HTA Programme is inviting researchers to carry out the research as outlined above. Applications should be co-produced, demonstrating an equal partnership with service commissioners, providers and service users (or their advocates) in order to provide evidence and actionable findings of immediate utility to decision-makers and service users. Applicants may wish to consult the NIHR INVOLVE guidance on co-producing research.

Additional commissioning brief background information

A background document is available that provides further information to support applicants for this call. It is intended to summarise what prompted the call and the existing evidence base, including relevant work from the HTA and wider NIHR research portfolio. It was researched and written on the basis of information from a search of relevant sources and databases, and in consultation with a number of experts in the field. If you would like a copy please email

Making an application

If you wish to submit a Stage 1 application for this call, the online application form can be found on the Funding opportunities page.  To select this call, use the filters on the right of the screen or search using the call name and/or number.

Your application must be submitted on-line no later than 1pm on the 22 September 2021. Applications will be considered by the HTA Funding Committee at its meeting in November 2021.

Guidance notes and supporting information for HTA Programme applications are available.

Important: Shortlisted Stage 1 applicants will be given eight weeks to submit a Stage 2 application. The Stage 2 application will be considered at the Funding Committee in March 2021.

Applications received electronically after 1300 hours on the due date will not be considered.

For commissioned topics, the Programme strongly discourages the practice of the same co-applicant joining more than one competing team. There may be unusual circumstances where the same person could be included on more than on application eg a lead from a named charity or a unique national expert in a condition. For such exceptions (i) each application needs to state the case as to why the same person is included (ii) the shared co-applicant should not divulge application details between teams and (iii) both teams should acknowledge in their application that they are aware that one of their co-applicants is part of a competing application and that study details have not been shared. 

Should you have any queries please contact us by email: