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Mental health research in Northern England - Round 2 highlight notice

Contents

Further to the recently announced funding call on mental health research in Northern England, the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme is pleased to announce that the mental health theme will be extended to further two calls that will launch in July 2021. Researchers to RfPB and Research for Social Care (RfSC) are welcome to apply for funding through this second round for research to better understand and manage the health and social care consequences of mental health conditions.

Summary

  • RfPB and RfSC are inviting proposals from eligible research teams to better understand and manage the health and social care consequences of mental health conditions.
  • These calls are an important part of the Department of Health and Social Care's ongoing interest in strengthening mental health research in less well supported areas.
  • Proposals will be invited via a highlight notice against RfPB competition 46 and an additional mental health-themed RfSC call. Both calls will launch in July 2021, with submission deadlines in November 2021 for RfPB and in October 2021 for RfSC.
  • We are particularly interested in populations in Northern England where there is a high mental health burden and which has been historically underserved by research activity. Host organisation has to be based in Northern England, however collaborators outside of the North are welcome.
  • The calls offer researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic providing that it falls within the mental health call remit.
  • Both calls are open to researchers at all career stages, and standard eligibility rules will apply for both RfPB and RfSC. We are keen to encourage fresh ideas from new researchers and appropriate proposals are welcomed from those with limited research experience (early career researchers) when supported by an experienced, strong and multi-disciplinary team.
  • Both calls are for proposals up to £350,000 for a period of up to 36 months. Projects can start in November 2022.
  • Both calls will consider applications in a two stage application process.
  • Applications are expected to have strong involvement and collaboration with organisations that are responsible for delivering mental health treatment and related social care services e.g local authorities and third sector, where appropriate.
  • Our funding decisions are based on a number of criteria including quality, timeliness, potential impact and value for money. 

Call for research proposals addressing mental health problems in Northern England

Mental health problems represent an ever-increasing burden in the UK, to all ages of the population, challenging mental health and health and social care systems. The impact mental health problems can have on individuals and the wider societal and economic consequences is vast and complex and includes increased risk of co-morbid illnesses, social exclusion, socioeconomic disadvantage (e.g. low education, unemployment, poverty or deprivation), loss of productivity, sickness absence and the need for provision of welfare support. The increase of mental health support needs further creates a burden on the resources of local authorities and on social care service sectors. Despite the high prevalence, many populations do not receive the support they need and there are significant inequalities to its access.

Mental health research is an ongoing priority for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and for the NIHR. Much of the current research expertise is concentrated in a small number of geographical locations and the NIHR has ambitions to increase the capacity and capability to conduct mental health research right across the country. This will help to both broaden the research base and also support the drive to see more research conducted in populations with the highest health need.

This call aims to study populations with a high condition burden and which have been historically underserved by research activity or where there is an unmet social care need. As illustrated by the maps below there is a mismatch between regional research activities (measured by patient recruitment per 100,000 patients) in mental health and the prevalence of mental health conditions in England in the past 10 years (2010-19) (see Figures 1 and 2).

Analysis of prevalence of common mental health conditions and research activity

The figures and tables below illustrate the mismatch between the level of regional research activity (measured by patient recruitment per 100,000 patients) and prevalence of common mental health conditions in England in the past 10 years (2010-19).

The recruitment per 100,000 prevalence information shows where the highest proportion of people with mental health conditions are being recruited to research studies. Mental health research activity levels are highest in South London and Thames Valley and South Midlands. However, the weighted prevalence information shows that mental health conditions are most prevalent in Greater Manchester and in the North West Coast.

Recruitment per 100,000 prevalence

This figure and table show where the highest proportion of people with mental health conditions are being recruited into mental health studies. On the figure, areas of highest recruitment per 100,000 prevalence are shown in dark orange, with the shade becoming paler as recruitment per 100,000 prevalence drops.

Figure 1. Where are the highest proportions of people with common mental health conditions being recruited into mental health studies?

Local Clinical Research Network region

Recruitment

Prevalence

Recruitment per 100,000 prevalence

South London

22,101

387,025

57.1

Thames Valley and South Midlands

4,332

222,443

19.5

West Midlands

7,484

568,463

13.2

North West London

2,869

250,377

11.5

Kent, Surrey and Sussex

4,286

426,269

10.1

Yorkshire and Humber

6,145

630,356

9.7

North East and North Cumbria

3,427

383,540

8.9

East Midlands 

3,442

420,127

8.2

Eastern

3,108

418,186

7.4

West of England

1,888

256,886

7.1

North West Coast

2,929

521,317

5.6

Wessex

1,559

289,753

5.4

South West Peninsula

1,251

250,971

5.0

North Thames

2,803

648,839

4.3

Greater Manchester

1,133

430,692

2.6

England total

68,757

6,114,244

11.2

Weighted prevalence per 1,000 population

This figure and table show where common mental health conditions are most prevalent in England in the past 10 years (2010-19). On the figure, areas of highest prevalence per 1,000 population are shown in dark purple, with the shade becoming paler as recruitment prevalence drops.

Figure 2. Where are common Mental Health conditions most prevalent?

Local Clinical Research Network region

Prevalence

Adult population

Weighted prevalence (per 1,000)

Greater Manchester

430,692

2,146,470

200.7

North West Coast

521,317

2,707,490

192.5

North East and North Cumbria

383,540

2,296,045

167.0

North West London

250,377

1,505,994

166.3

South London

387,025

2,328,617

166.2

North Thames

648,839

3,952,295

164.2

West of England

265,886

1,644,509

161.7

Yorkshire and Humber

630,356

3,971,913

158.7

South West Peninsula

250,971

1,611,110

155.8

Eastern 

418,186

2,704,008

154.7

Wessex

289,753

2,065,847

140.3

West Midlands

568,463

4,088,391

139.0

Thames Valley and South Midlands

222,443

1,637,712

132.9

Kent, Surrey and Sussex

426,269

3,218,657

132.4

East Midlands

420,127

3,236,427

129.8

England total

6,114,244

39,151,485

156.2

Scope

RfPB and RfSC are inviting proposals that address the following research goals: 

  1. Research to halve the number of children and young people experiencing persistent mental health problems.
  2. Research to improve understanding of the links between physical and mental health, and eliminate the mortality gap. 
  3. Research to develop new and improved treatments, interventions, and support for mental health problems. 
  4. Research to improve choice of, and access to, mental health care, treatment, and support in hospital and community settings.

We welcome proposals that in addition seek to address one or more of the following ambitions:

  • Increasing research capacity
  • Increasing research capability
  • Increasing the range of disciplines involved
  • Increasing the range of research settings
  • Increasing collaborations between regional and supra-regional partners
  • Increasing the number of research active clinicians

The call specification draws on priorities identified by the Mental Health Research Goals 2020-2030. Details of each goal’s scope and example areas that the research may address are available on the Academy of Medical Sciences website

Proposals should be within the RfPB or RfSC scope and the scope of the mental health highlight notice.

Research methods may involve primary research or evidence synthesis, including systematic reviews, modelling studies, or the analysis of existing datasets.

Proposals have to 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, care users, carers, the NHS, and social care. 

Applications should be co-produced with service commissioners, providers, and service users wherever appropriate to better ensure findings are of immediate utility in policy and practice. Applicants may wish to consult the NIHR guidance on co-producing research.

Call details 

Eligibility

  • The RfPB and RfSC calls are open to researchers at all career stages, and standard eligibility rules will apply as detailed in the RfPB applicant guidance and RfSC Call Specification
  • For RfPB call early career researchers* are encouraged to apply as lead applicants but it is not considered an eligibility requirement. 
  • The host institution is expected to be in the North of England (North East and North Cumbria, North West Coast, Greater Manchester, and Yorkshire and Humber). Research teams will typically be based from within the North but collaborators outside of the North are permitted.
  • Host eligibility will include an NHS body or other provider of NHS services in England (for RfPB) or a Higher Educational Institute (HEI), local authority, NHS body or other provider of NHS services in England for RfSC. Other relevant organisations and authorities are permitted as co-applicants but not necessarily host/lead organisations. Research teams are encouraged to work with relevant charities, which can be involved in proposals as long as a clear rationale is provided and their role is well justified.
  • Participant recruitment to the study must take place from the North of England region and this can be in conjunction with sites located in other regions, where the burden is high. The choice of recruitment regions and sub-localities has to be justified in relation to the size of burden. Applicants are encouraged to use a mapping tool, such as the Research Targeting Tool, to demonstrate how the planned recruitment sites fit with prevalence/burden. The platform is open to anyone who has an NHS email address or University email address
  • Special consideration should be given to the inclusion of socio-economic factors and other under-served communities that are more affected by mental health problems.

*For this highlight notice, we consider any researcher who has not yet been the principal investigator for a substantial award (£100,000+) to be an early career researcher.

Funding

The call is for applications up to £350,000 (100% direct costs for NHS and 80% full Economic Cost (fEC) for HEI) for a period of up to 36 months. Detailed information on eligible costs can be found in the RfPB finance guidance and RfSC finance guidance.

RfPB operates a tiered funding system, which reflects the likelihood of achieving patient benefit. Each proposal will need to provide a robust case for value for money.

How to apply

Applicants must submit an online application via the Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) Research Management System (RMS). Only applications submitted online via the CCF RMS will be accepted. 

Assessment process and criteria

Proposals submitted under the highlight notice will be assessed on their quality and individual merits according to standard RfPB or RfSC scheme criteria. Reviewers will also be asked to consider fit to the highlight notice, including justification for recruitment site(s).

The standard RfPB and RfSC two stage application process will apply to proposals submitted under this notice. Word document versions of the online application form are available for the RfPB Stage 1 application form and Stage 2 application form. A Word document version of the RfSC Stage 1 application form is also available.

The funding committees will make recommendations on outcomes to DHSC. Applicants will have an opportunity to respond to feedback provided by the committee at Stage 1 and where clarifications and/or changes are required as part of the award process.

Key assessment criteria for the submissions will include:

  • Quality of the research proposed
  • Significance and potential benefit to the NHS and its patients and/or social care
  • Value for money provided by the application.

The decisions of the Committee will not be open to appeal and the funders reserve the right to amend the application process.

Key call dates

 -

RfPB

RfSC

Competition launch

July 2021

July 2021

Submission deadline 

November 2021

October 2021

Invited to Stage 2 decision

January 2022

December 2021

Funding decision

July 2022

July 2022

Contact information

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact their local Research Design Service (RDS) for the initial assessment and advice.

For general and scientific queries relating to the call, including queries relating to the administrative process of applying, please contact rfpb@nihr.ac.uk or rfsc@nihr.ac.uk.