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Guidance on funding the cost of research staff redeployed to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Contents

Guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement:

Introduction

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations have paused research and/or diverted research staff to support the NHS. Throughout this period, the organisations in receipt of research awards have continued to receive funding from research funders - often in line with pre COVID-19 payment schedules. Research funders are now seeking to reconcile actual research costs incurred during this period with payments made to award holders and to adjust future payment schedules to reflect these costs. Some research funders have also redeployed staff to the NHS direct and, similarly, are looking to recover the employment costs.

The guidance sets out the process by which non-NHS organisations that have loaned/redeployed research staff that they employ to the NHS can recover the cost. It applies to research staff funded by research funders including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and charities. It has been agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) with input from UKRI and the Association of Medical Charities.

It also sets out how NHS providers should report and account for the following:

  • Research staff employed directly and funded through a research award who have been redeployed internally to non-research COVID-19 response activities
  • Research staff employed by another organisation, such as a university or research funders, who have been loaned or redeployed to a NHS organisation for non-research COVID-19 response activities

For the period from August 2020 onwards, further guidance will be provided detailing arrangements for NHS funding and treatment of lost income (including research income).

General approach

Non-NHS organisations such as universities and charities, and NHS bodies that have loaned/redeployed staff funded from research income to work on non-research NHS COVID-19 response activities should, where necessary, recover the cost of employing these members of staff for the time that they have been redeployed to the NHS from the NHS organisation to which they have been redeployed.

Where the NHS organisation has redeployed research staff that it employs internally, they will need to defer/derecognise the associated research income (see below).

The time of NHS employed research staff redeployed to work on other research activities than originally planned will need to be charged to the appropriate research budget.

NHS organisations, usually NHS providers, that have benefited from loaned staff that are not funded through research income (i.e. that it does not employ) should record the cost of these staff as additional COVID-19 costs and seek reimbursement through the monthly returns process so it has the funding to reimburse the organisation that loaned the staff (unless that organisation has agreed otherwise).

Many NHS providers are already following the principles set out above. Those that are not will need to revisit (see below) how they have been accounting for the costs and relevant research income. DHSC and NHSEI are cognisant of the impact this will have on future central top up payments to NHS providers.

Guidance for NHS providers where research funded staff employed by them are redeployed

Where NHS providers have redeployed research staff that they employ, and who are funded by NIHR, UKRI, charities or an equivalent research funding institution, to non-research NHS COVID-19 response activities, they should defer/derecognise the associated research income in their monthly returns from April 2020 to July 2020. This will be deemed loss of income and reimbursed through the retrospective top up process for the period April 2020 to July 2020.

The cost of these redeployed researchers does not represent an additional COVID-19 cost and should not be reported as such in the monthly returns. This is because (as stated in the monthly guidance issued by NHSEI) these costs are within the ‘usual cost base’.

For clarity, providers that have redeployed research staff that they employ to other COVID research activities should continue to recognise research income relating to these staff. These staff costs are within the ‘usual cost base’ and should not be included as COVID-19 costs in monthly returns.

Providers may also have research staff that they employ who are not redeployed to COVID nor are they able to undertake the research for which their time is funded. Research funders have different policies on the extent to which they will fund ‘downtime’. Providers need to account for research income depending on the research funder policy for the affected staff.

Below summarises the approach.

Redeployed to non-research NHS COVID-19 response activities

  • Reporting research income: Defer/derecognise research income relating to these staff
  • Include as COVID-19 cost in monthly returns? No. These staff costs are within the ‘usual cost base’

Redeployed to COVID-19 research activities

  • Reporting research income: Continue to recognise research income relating to these staff
  • Include as COVID-19 cost in monthly returns? No. These staff costs are within the ‘usual cost base’

On trials that were paused but were not redeployed

  • Reporting research income: Depends on approach of funding organisation
  • Include as COVID-19 cost in monthly returns? No. These staff costs are within the ‘usual cost base’

For the period from August 2020 onwards, further guidance will be provided detailing arrangements for NHS funding and treatment of lost income (including research income).

Guidance for NHS providers benefiting from research staff redeployed/loaned to them from non-NHS organisations and for the non-NHS organisations that have redeployed/loaned staff

NHS organisations that have benefited from research staff redeployed/loaned to them from non-NHS organisations such as universities or research funders to work on non-research activities should include the employment costs of these research staff as a COVID-19 cost in their monthly returns.

Where the organisation that employs the redeployed/loaned research staff is the research award holder, or receives research funding for the member of staff, or is a research funder, and is NOT the NHS provider to which to member of staff is redeployed, the employing organisation will need to recover the cost direct from the NHS organisation to which staff have been redeployed. The mechanism for doing so should be determined locally but may include invoicing or netting off against other existing funding flows.

This does not apply to the following:

  • The cost of staff employed by AHSNs and deployed to other organisations as part of the COVID-19 response. AHSNs will not seek to recover these costs.
  • NIHR Network funded staff. See below for the treatment of the costs of these staff.

NIHR Network funded staff

The above arrangements will NOT apply to staff funded through NIHR Research Networks. In most cases Network funded staff redeployed to the NHS have NOT been charged to NHS COVID-19 budgets and have instead been picked up by the Network. Rather than unpick this arrangement, the cost of Network funded staff redeployed to the NHS for non-research COVID-19 activities will continue to be covered by Network funding. The NHS Provider benefitting from the redeployment of these members of staff should NOT charge the cost to the NHS COVID-19 budget and should continue to charge their cost to the Network budget.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre will be collecting data from Local Clinical Research Networks about the level of Network funding used to support these costs.