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21/598 Health and social care outcomes and cost-effectiveness of assistive technologies commissioning brief



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.

This is a brief of broader scope from which the programme is interested in potentially funding more than one proposal to address different research questions.

The HTA Programme is interested in proposals for the evaluation of assistive technologies provided by relevant local authorities to residents who live at home, on the basis of disability- or age-related needs, with the aim of promoting and maintaining independence. This could be ‘low-tech’ solutions, e.g. non-electronic devices and home adaptations that might be in use already without evidence regarding their effectiveness, as well as ‘high-tech” systems, such as smart devices that facilitate telecare, which are market-ready, but not necessarily widely adopted.

Applicants should clearly define and justify the specific population of interest, study design and outcome measures. In defining these, they should ensure strong emphasis on social care outcomes (alongside any relevant health outcomes), as well as appropriate balance between considerations primarily affecting the users of assistive technologies (such as ease of use, psychosocial wellbeing, requirements around privacy or contribution by qualified human carers) and - importantly - economic factors of concern to local authorities.

For proposals to conduct evidence syntheses that would include primary research carried out outside the UK, the participants, settings, type of data collected and other relevant characteristics of that primary research must be sufficiently similar to the British context, such that the results of the evidence synthesis can be generalised to residents of UK local authority districts, counties or unitary authority areas who are entitled to obtain assistive technology from their local government authority or NHS provider.

Applicants should also explain how the research will fit into the remit of the HTA programme. Epidemiology or exploratory studies are not eligible for the HTA programme but primary research, including randomised and observational studies, and evidence syntheses will be considered.

Proposals will be expected to include strong Public Patient Involvement within the study.

Background information for potential applicants

Assistive technologies comprise products and services that enhance the safety, quality of life and independence of a disabled or older person, as well as their carers. This includes ‘low tech’ solutions, such as railings, raised toilet seats, grip cutlery or medication dispensers, as well as high-tech electronic interventions, including fall detectors, voice-activated systems that control areas of the home, Global Positioning System (GPS) applications that can help families and carers locate a person who has got lost, etc. This could also include interventions designed to address loneliness and social isolation.

Investment in assistive technologies makes financial sense for local authorities (as well as benefitting the NHS), if it helps them meet their statutory obligations towards people with disabilities and the elderly while minimising the need for emergency social and healthcare interventions, hospital stays and long-term residential care. At a time when local authorities’ finances are strained, it is especially important to optimise the provision of assistive technologies to those residents whose lives can be improved and independence retained. This requires a robust evidence base concerning health and social care outcomes associated with different assistive technologies, as well as their cost-effectiveness.

NIHR is therefore interested in funding studies that would facilitate 1) cost-effectiveness analyses of assistive technologies by local authorities in the UK; and 2) identification of evidence gaps that should be addressed through further primary research in this area. Health economic approaches that combine the NHS and local authority perspectives are of particular interest.

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

Your application must be submitted online no later than 1pm on the 4 May 2022. Applications will be considered by the HTA Funding Committee at its meeting in July 2022.

Guidance notes and supporting information for HTA Programme applications are available by clicking the links.

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 November 2022.

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