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Policy Research Programme Call on Working Age Health - Research Specification



Timetable and budget

  • Deadline for stage 1 applications: 19 January 2021
  • Notification of outcome of stage 1 applications: Late March 2021
  • Deadline for stage 2 application: May 2021
  • Notification of outcome of stage 2 applications: August 2021
  • Project start: September 2021 (subject to pre-contract negotiations)
  • Budget: £250,000 to £750,000 per project


1.   The NIHR Policy Research Programme (PRP) invites applications to undertake research on working age health to support Government policy around work, health and disability. Research is invited on the following themes:

  1. Understanding population needs in relation to employment and health among working age people: rich descriptions of population needs that can inform policy assumptions.
  2. Supporting participation in good work for people experiencing sickness or who have long term health conditions or disabilities: research that could lead to the improvement or development of activities aimed at supporting disabled people and those experiencing ill health that affects their ability to work, to remain in work, or re-enter work where that is beneficial for their health.
  3. Trends, new developments and delivery models where there are implications for health and work intervention or service design, and/or health and work outcomes; new ways of approaching health and work intervention or service design and delivery.

2.   Research projects funded by this exercise will provide further evidence to inform policy aimed at improving health and wellbeing and reducing health inequalities by investigating the relationship between health and work, and generating knowledge about effective interventions. As such, research commissioned through this call is expected to be largely non-clinical in nature. Funded projects will need to generate results to inform policy in the next three to five years.

3.   Proposed research studies will need to demonstrate relevance to the issues outlined in this specification, and the potential to:

  • Address issues or problems that are important to those who use the evidence generated, and influence a range of stakeholders (e.g. Department of Health and Social Care and Arm’s Length Bodies, Department of Work and Pensions, National Health Service England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Primary Care Networks, local government, employers/industry);
  • Inform improvements to policy and practice with widespread population impact;
  • Support strategic improvements e.g. more effective integration across health and employment systems, better investment decisions;
  • Recommend interventions or policies that could be sustained medium to long term;
  • Improve societal and system preparedness for future health and wellbeing challenges.

4.   We are seeking projects with a high potential for impact and wide applications and benefits across the working age population. Proposed studies should have high potential to contribute to improvements in population health and reductions in costs to the economy, health and welfare systems of ill health that prevents people working, through a focus on:

  • Work as health determinant - improving health through work and workplaces;
  • Reducing sickness absence and supporting return to work; or
  • Reducing work incapacity and supporting employment and re-employment.

5.   Projects may draw on a range of methodologies including: evidence reviews, secondary analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, primary data collection including qualitative research and evaluation studies.

6.   Health and work issues occur in a complex system which crosses the boundaries between health settings, the workplace, and welfare system. Successful outcomes require collaboration between many different actors including individuals, employers, healthcare professionals and other service delivery professionals. Studies will therefore need to have clear plans for involvement of these key actors. Proposals must therefore include a stakeholder engagement plan and consider opportunities for coproduction to demonstrate that projects are feasible in the time available. In this call, key study participants may be employees or employers rather than NHS patients and therefore plans should be appropriately targeted at the study focus and research objectives.



7.   Long term health conditions and disabilities are prevalent among working age people. In the UK, there are around 13.9 million working-age people with a long-term health condition, including 8.2 million disabled people whose condition limits their ability to carry out day to day activities[1].  Most commonly, working age people are affected by mental health or musculoskeletal problems - 7 in 10 working age disabled people have a mental health or musculoskeletal health condition, either as their main condition or alongside other health conditions[2].

8.   Over the course of a year, around 1.4 million working-age people have at least one long-term sickness absence lasting four weeks or longer: this is around 4% of those in work or have been in work in the last 12 months.[3] Most people successfully return to work after a period of long-term sickness absence, and many return relatively quickly.[4] However, disabled people are 10 times more likely to leave work following long-term sickness absence than non-disabled people,[5] and disabled people who are unemployed are around three times less likely than non-disabled people to enter employment over the course of one year.[6] Sickness and health-related worklessness have negative effects on quality of life and income for individuals and their families and may exacerbate health problems.Ill health which prevents people working also costs the economy an estimated £100 billion a year including £7 billion to the NHS.[7]

9.   A range of evidence discussed in the Marmot Review[8], demonstrates that employment is a key social determinant of health with implications for health inequalities. There is now a substantial evidence base demonstrating the harmful effects of unemployment on health and a growing literature indicating both the features and importance of good work for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Good work provides psychosocial, material and physical benefits, while poor work environments can result in ill-health.[9]

10.   Based on clinical evidence, there is also now a broad consensus across stakeholder groups (including researchers, disabled people’s representative groups, and employers) that when their health conditions permit, people with health conditions or disabilities should be encouraged to remain in or (re)-enter work as soon as possible.[10] Evidence shows work can be therapeutic for people with health conditions or disabilities, leads to better health outcomes and minimises the harmful effects of long-term sickness absence and the risk of long-term incapacity.[11]

11.   A series of independent reviews and government policy documents have considered the opportunities to intervene, in workplaces and through the health and welfare systems when health problems pose a risk to individuals staying in work or when people with long-term health conditions or disabilities need support to enter jobs.[12]

12.   Most recently, the Government has set a goal to see one million more disabled people in work between 2017 and 2027, and has set out national policy measures to encourage employer action to prevent ill-health related job loss, for example by developing the private market of occupational health support.[13] The Government has also invested in a significant programme of testing and trialling promising health and work interventions.

13.   In the health system, recent institutional developments are changing the opportunities to support patients who may be struggling to stay in, or re-enter work due to health problems. Integrated care systems now enable local governments and the voluntary sector to work together to reduce health inequalities, such as the disability employment gap. In addition, expanded multidisciplinary teams within primary care networks are better able to offer complementary forms of support to address needs that affect work participation.

Evidence needed for policy making

14.   While there is a wide research literature on the two-way relationship between health and work, policymakers often struggle to pinpoint specific evidence to inform real-world policy approaches and improve services at scale. Debates about action on health and work can range from discussions about promoting health and safety in the workplace, through to the best means of employment support for long-term incapacity benefits claimants. While the issue of health and work is broad the policy need for this call is research that will inform measures or support to help working age people who are struggling to remain in work or re-enter work due to health reasons to achieve those goals, to thereby improve the health of working age people.  

15.   Policymakers in this area also need a variety of different types of evidence to help with making a case for action; design of specific measures that can be replicated (for example considering the target groups and scope, as well as specific details of an intervention); cost-benefit assessment (according to Green Book principles), and real world implementation.



Populations of interest

16.   The population of interest for this call is the working age population in its broadest terms, and for particular topics or issues it may be relevant to consider this entire population. For other topics or issues, it may be more relevant to consider a more specific population, for example, people with long term health conditions or disabilities, or people on sick leave and at risk of falling out of work. However, research must have potential broad population applications, rather than a narrow focus on a very specific issue or group.

17.   Specific characteristics that are of particular importance for policy include:

  • Health status and morbidity – particularly long term mental and physical health conditions, disabilities, presence of comorbidities and pain;
  • Protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010- particularly age, gender and ethnicity;
  • Aspects of socio-economic disadvantage such as area deprivation; and
  • Employment conditions and relations - including employment contracts (e.g. gig economy), size of workplace.

18.   Applicants should consider the different ways in which these groups may be affected by the topics, issues or interventions being considered and any ways in which this could be explored in proposed research studies.

Systems, associated actors and stakeholder engagement

19.   Health and work experiences, issues and outcomes all occur in a complex system with interactions between many different actors such as individuals, employers, healthcare professionals and other service delivery professionals. Collaboration between these different actors is vital for achieving positive health and work outcomes. We are particularly interested in research that takes into consideration:

  • The needs, experiences and challenges experienced by different actors;
  • Collaboration between different actors within or across settings (e.g. workplaces, healthcare, community); and
  • Factors that either facilitate or prevent stakeholders from being able to take an active role in supporting people experiencing sickness or with health conditions or disabilities to return and remain in employment

20.   There is scope within this call for applicants to consider a variety of methods or data developments which could support working with different actors. Proposals should describe how different stakeholders could be engaged and how coproduction elements could be incorporated.

Health and work outcomes

21.   While there are many potentially relevant outcomes that studies on health and work could investigate, from a policy perspective, there is particular interest in outcomes where the domains of health and work intersect. Outcomes of this nature include, but are not limited to:

  • Productivity;
  • Sickness absence; and
  • Employment outcomes for people experiencing ill health or disability (e.g. entry into work, return to work, job retention, flow onto benefits).

22.   A wider set of relevant employment, health and wellbeing outcomes is still of interest, but it is essential that applicants demonstrate a connection to key outcomes which include elements of both health and work.

23.   Policymakers also have an interest in the relationship between health and employment outcomes and the role of intermediate variables (e.g. psychological factors such as self-efficacy, expectancies and beliefs) along with their role as potential mediators or moderators of outcomes; and we would welcome research studies that allow for exploration of these factors.

Areas that are out of scope

24.   The following types of study are out of scope for this call:

  • Studies focussed on very specific issues or groups which would be difficult to apply to a broader population in a wide range of settings;
  • Studies focused solely on workplace safety or industrial injuries;
  • General health promotion or health behaviours research; and
  • Evaluations of current national government policies (such programmes contracted by the Department of Work & Pensions.), where separate plans may already be underway to fulfil any such requirements from a policy perspective.


Research priorities

25.   The research priorities in this specification have been developed in collaboration with the Government’s Work and Health Unit – which brings together teams from the Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health and Social Care – and in consultation with the wider research community. This included an open invitation to submit priority research questions ahead of a stakeholder workshop which NIHR hosted in October 2019.

26.   Given the complexity of health and work research and practice, the themes outlined below are not mutually exclusive. For example, the same actors, and shared aims, principles or actions may be relevant across multiple themes.

A. Understanding population needs in relation to health and employment among working age people: rich descriptions of population needs that can inform policy assumptions.

27.   We need a good understanding of distributions and variations of characteristics, needs, experiences and outcomes among the working age population in relation to employment and health to allow us to effectively target and design policies and interventions. Our interests include:

  • More explicit knowledge about how health and work characteristics correspond with protected characteristics, aspects of socioeconomic position and other social circumstances;
  • Distributions and drivers of psychological and cultural factors that affect health and work outcomes including illness perceptions, health beliefs, workplace culture;
  • The relationship between morbidity and functional capability (for work and other activities) across the lifecourse, including any variations by cohort;
  • Experiences of work for different cohorts and implications for future health and work needs and outcomes, including on transition into the labour market.

B. Supporting participation in good work for people experiencing sickness or who have long term health conditions or disabilities: research that could lead to the improvement or development of activities aimed at supporting disabled people and those experiencing ill health that affects their ability to work, to remain in work, or re-enter work where that is beneficial for their health.

28.   Supporting people through periods of sickness at work, and preventing job loss associated with ill health or disability, is the focus of several government initiatives, including proposals set out in the recent government consultation ‘Health is Everyone’s Business’.[14] Action in this area will require the involvement of different actors including individuals, line managers, other representatives of employers, as well as healthcare professionals, including GPs and Allied Health Professionals.

29.   The Government has commissioned trials and tests of promising models of support to help people with health conditions and disabilities to stay in and return to work which bring together these actors, including Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) for people with common physical and mental health conditions, and those with alcohol or drug addiction; the JOBS II model of employment support to build jobseeker self-efficacy; and employment advice in IAPT services, with studies reporting by late 2021.

30.   We are therefore seeking studies that focus on new models or approaches, or further advancement of promising models. We are also particularly interested in studies which will focus on key implementation issues. This may require evaluation of pilots or other research to inform future intervention design and delivery, particularly how to: encourage uptake by relevant actors (including individuals, employers, healthcare professionals) and promote relevant interactions between actors, and build capability among employers or healthcare professionals. We are interested in having a rich understanding of what is delivered as well as how it is delivered, and being able to understand the specific features of components of interventions that are particularly valuable.

31.   Policy interests include:

  • Research that will advance effective interventions to support people to recover and/or cope with health conditions while continuing to work, where appropriate
  • Understanding factors that affect the sustainability of health and work outcomes and what helps to improve outcome sustainability;
  • The content, timing and mode of brief interventions for return to work;
  • Research into systems-linking to ensure the right actions happen at the right time in the right place; and
  • Research that will inform promotion of ‘good work’, job enrichment and progression at work.

C. Trends, new developments and delivery models: that have implications for the design of health and work interventions or services, and/or health and work outcomes; new ways of approaching design and delivery of support.

32.   A range of social, demographic, technological and economic developments, may affect future health and work needs and the nature of appropriate, effective policy responses. Early research on emergent trends, including new forms of work, and the role of digital in facilitating work is intended to inform longer-term policy formulation and shorter-term innovation.

33.   Policy interests include:

  • Approaches to mitigating the risks of new forms or emergent trends in ways of working (e.g. gig economy, homeworking), including any implications of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The role of technology as a barrier or enabler to health and work outcomes; and
  • New approaches and settings for identifying and addressing health and work needs.


Considerations for research

34.   Prospective applicants are encouraged to consider the following critical areas in developing their proposals.

  • Policy relevance

35.   This call is funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme (PRP) which commissions research to inform Ministers and senior policy makers. Researchers should demonstrate the relevance of their proposed research to evidence users, for example, how research could inform policy assumptions, or the direction of Government strategy, formulation of policy measures, or broad population-based interventions or services.

36.   In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interrelationship between health and work and raised new questions, for example on health implications of different working patterns and work environments. We are not specifically inviting studies focused on experiences or challenges that have been raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, but applicants should consider how any relevant issues prompted by the pandemic might be explored in their study, particularly where there is clear relevance to government priorities around supporting workforce health and economic recovery.

  • Equality and health inequalities

37.   There is a significant body of evidence that describes the scale and nature of health inequalities including those related to employment across the UK. We are interested in whether and how interventions support health equity and equality across groups. Applicants should demonstrate how their research can help support these aims.

  • Methods

38.   A wide variety of approaches, methods and techniques can help provide policy relevant evidence including, but not limited to: secondary data analysis, data developments (including data linkage and modelling), economic analysis, qualitative research (stand alone or as part of mixed methods approaches), observational studies, psychometric studies and evaluations (combining theory based, impact and ideally economic components).

39.   Applicants must clearly demonstrate the suitability of their proposed methods for answering their research questions and producing policy relevant evidence.

  • Interdisciplinary approaches

40.   A range of disciplines, perspectives, approaches and methods have relevance for policy relevant health and work research. Some issues may benefit from studies that take a particular perspective but, in many circumstances, interdisciplinary approaches and multiple perspectives will be valuable throughout a study lifecycle. For example, this may involve combining clinical experts with social scientists, and expertise from both the health and employment domains. Applicants are therefore particularly encouraged to bring together interdisciplinary teams as appropriate for proposed studies.

  • Feasibility

41.   Meaningful engagement of employers is a prerequisite for generating high quality evidence on interventions through the workplace. Similarly, research exploring how to address non-clinical needs in health settings require meaningful, ongoing engagement with healthcare professionals to secure buy-in and strong co-operation. Previous studies in this area have faced considerable challenges securing the buy-in and co-operation of employers and healthcare professionals to enable appropriate referrals, data collection, and other activity required for research studies.

42.   A key consideration for proposed studies involving primary data collection is therefore how study recruitment and engagement will be approached. The funding committee will expect to see a thorough consideration of the feasibility of any research, especially where employer or healthcare worker engagement is fundamental to its success.

43.   Other feasibility issues, including any implications of the current COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. on timing, research methods etc.) should also be explicitly covered in proposals.

  • Implementation issues

44.   Health and work interventions are complex social interventions, and may not work as intended when attempts are made to spread or to scale approaches that have shown positive results in pilots or trials. Evaluations that focus solely on average population effects may miss vital information about how different groups experience or are impacted by the intervention, and critical contextual factors for success in a particular area or setting. We need to strengthen our understanding of how health and work interventions can be successfully implemented, with what resources and in what context; including making better use of lessons learned across different studies of similar interventions. We also need to improve our understanding of the resource implications of different approaches to health and work support, engagement and recruitment issues, and the capacity and capability of different roles that play a part in delivering support (particularly in the NHS, occupational health sector and welfare system).

  • Knowledge translation and evidence-based practice

45.   In addition, a strong evidence base in a particular area, doesn’t always translate into successful practical tools, interventions and services that work on the ground. A key interest for policy makers is how they can best influence the behaviours of key actors that have a bearing on health and work outcomes (e.g. employers, healthcare professionals, occupational health providers) by translating evidence-based approaches to facilitate their adoption at scale. A range of evidence-based tools and guidance products already exist to inform practice, but there is less knowledge about their impact. Therefore, within this call we welcome studies that consider how to influence practitioners and employers to adopt evidence-based interventions.


Budget and duration

46.   Funding will be available for at least two commissioning rounds and will be allocated flexibly across projects working across disciplines and settings on a broad range of themes. NIHR is expecting to initially fund between four to six projects at a cost of between £250,000 and £750,000 per project although lower cost projects are also encouraged. However, there is no guarantee that studies from each of the priority areas will be funded. Funding to that level will only be available if there are suitable high quality and relevant studies. In all cases, projects are expected to last no longer than 36 months. Applicants are encouraged to read paragraphs 41 – 43 above about feasibility issues when considering timelines to propose for projects. However, where applicants believe further value could be obtained from extending the project beyond a three-year period, they are welcome to provide details for the panel to consider as long as this is accompanied by strong rationale. There are no guarantees that any such extension would be granted, and therefore applicants should ensure that their main proposal is still deliverable as a standalone project, within three years.

47.   The duration of the research and individual projects within the contract will be no longer than is consistent with high quality studies. In assessing proposals, the Department will be seeking value for money as well as scientific excellence and, in particular, the potential for policy impact which is key.

48.   Applicants are asked to address the timing and nature of deliverables, maximising staff resources and other options for interim reporting in their proposals.

49.   Costings can include up to 100% full economic costing (FEC) but should exclude output VAT. Applicants are advised that value for money is one of the key criteria that peer reviewers and commissioning Committee members will assess applications against.

50.   All applications are expected to start within 2 months of funding being agreed, subject to pre-contract negotiations and specific requirements.



51.   The successful applicants for this research may be required to review their research objectives with an established research advisory group including representatives of relevant stakeholders and arm’s length bodies and to share emerging findings on an ongoing basis. You will be expected to:

  • provide regular feedback on progress
  • produce timely reports to the advisory group
  • produce a final report for sign off

52.   Key documents including reports must be provided to DHSC in draft form allowing sufficient time for review.

53.  The NIHR may approach one of the successful applicants to act as a co-ordinator for the programme as a whole. For example, to set up an annual research presentation meeting in conjunction with DHSC and its partners. Please do not cost for this activity; an additional sum will be allocated for this during pre-contract negotiation.


References and key documents

Black (2008). Working for a healthier tomorrow: work and health in Britain. (Accessed November 2020).

Black & Frost (2011). Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence in Great Britain. (Accessed November 2020).

DWP/DHSC (2016). Work, health and disability Green Paper data pack. (Access November 2020).

DWP/DHSC (2017). Improving lives: The future of work, health and disability. (Accessed November 2020).

DWP/DHSC (2019). Health is Everyone’s Business.: proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss. (Accessed November 2020).

DWP/DHSC. (2019). Health in the Workplace – Patterns of sickness absence, employer support and employment retention. (Accessed November 2020).

DWP (2020). The employment of disabled people 2019. (Accessed November 2020).

Hayday, Rick, Caroll, Jagger & Hillage (2008). Review of the Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Interventions, Strategies, Programmes and Policies to Help Recipients of Incapacity Benefits Return to Employment (Paid and Unpaid). (Accessed November 2020).

Marmot (2010). Fair society, healthy lives: the Marmot Review: strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010. (Accessed November 2020).

ONS (2020). Labour Market Overview, UK: November 2020, Table A08. (Accessed November 2020).

PHE (2015). Local action on health inequalities: promoting good quality jobs. (Accessed November 2020).

Waddell and Burton (2006). Is work good for your health and well-being? An independent review. (Accessed November 2020).


Standard information for applicants

1.   The sections below provide standard information on different aspects of NIHR PRP funding and will contain details relevant to your application.


General comments about applications

2.   The National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme (NIHR PRP) is a national programme of research dedicated to providing an evidence base for policy-making through the Department of Health and Social Care. It provides information to the Secretary of State for Health and his Ministers directly and through policy directorates in the Department of Health and Social Care and covers all aspects of the Department’s policy-making activity.

3.   Applications will be considered from other UK countries (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) provided they address the priority areas in a way that is relevant to the needs of the Department of Health and Social Care (England) and meet all other selection criteria.

4.   Applicants are encouraged to submit multidisciplinary applications.

5.   Applicants should consider the full range of potential audiences and describe how the research findings could be disseminated most effectively to ensure that the lessons from this research impact on policy and practice.


Research management

6.   Day-to-day management of this research will be provided by the principal investigator. They and their employers should ensure that they identify, and are able to discharge effectively, their respective responsibilities under the Health Research Authority (HRA) UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research (Health Research Authority, 2018)[15], which sets out the broad principles of good research governance.

7.   All successful research involving National Health Service (NHS) and social care users, carers, staff, data and/or premises must be approved by the appropriate research ethics committee (REC) or social care research ethics committee (SCREC). For further information on RECs, please visit the Health Research Authority website:[16]

8.   The successful research team must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation and the new Data Protection Act (2018)[17] and the Freedom of Information Act (2000). Effective security management, and ensuring personal information and assessment data are kept secure, will be essential. In particular:

  • The research team shall, at all times, be responsible for ensuring that data (including data in any electronic format) are stored securely. The research team shall take appropriate measures to ensure the security of such data, and guard against unauthorised access thereto, disclosure thereof, or loss or destruction while in its custody.
  • Personal data shall not be made available to anyone other than those employed directly on the project by the research team, to the extent that they need access to such information for the performance of their duties.

9.   For any research involving clinical trials, the successful team will be expected to be familiar with the Medical Research Council (MRC) Framework for Evaluating Complex Interventions, and to follow the principles of the MRC Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice in Clinical Trials in proposing structures for oversight of such trials and comply with the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004.

10.   The Institution leading the proposal should confirm that it has the capacity and is prepared to take on sponsorship responsibilities for clinical trials undertaken as part of the programme. Where the proposal includes a proposal for multi-site clinical trial activities, the research unit should demonstrate that they have the experience of governance and management of clinical trials across multiple clinical trial sites.


Risk management

11.   Applicants should submit, as part of their proposal, a summary explaining what they believe will be the key risks to delivering their research, and what contingencies they will put in place to deal with them. Please ensure this is detailed in the Management and Governance section of the online application form.

12.   A risk is defined as any factor which may delay, disrupt or prevent the full achievement of a project objective. All risks should be identified. The summary should include an assessment of each risk, together with a rating of the risks likelihood and its impact on a project objective (using a high, medium or low classification for both). The risk assessment should also identify appropriate actions that would reduce or eliminate each risk, or its impact.

13.   Typical areas of risk for an evaluation study might include ethical approval, site variation in data gathering, staffing, resource constraints, technical constraints, data access and quality, timing, management and operational issues; however, please note this is not an exhaustive list.


Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)

14.   The NIHR Policy Research Programme expects the active involvement of patients and the public (e.g. service users and carers) in the research that it supports, where appropriate. However, the nature and extent of patient and public involvement (PPI) is likely to vary depending on the context of the study. Applicants should describe how the issue of PPI will be addressed throughout the research process. For example, this could include patient and public involvement in refining research questions, designing research instruments, advising on approaches to recruitment, assisting in the collection and analysis of data, participation or chairing advisory and steering groups, and in the dissemination of research findings.

15.   Applicants are required to detail what active involvement is planned, how it will benefit the research and the rationale for their approach. PPI needs to be undertaken in a manner that acknowledges that some people may need additional support, or to acquire new knowledge or skills to enable them to become involved effectively (see INVOLVE publications for guides for researchers). Applicants should therefore provide information on arrangements for training and support. In addition, applicants should note that a budget line for the costs of PPI is included in the finance form. Where no PPI is proposed, a rationale for this decision must be given.

16.   For further information and guidance about PPI, please visit the INVOLVE website:


Outputs and reporting arrangements

17.   The research team will be expected to provide regular progress reports over the lifetime of the research and will be provided with a progress report template to complete at regular intervals. In addition to describing progress, these reports will allow researchers to indicate any significant changes to the agreed protocol, as well as setting down milestones for the next reporting period, giving an update on PPI and any publications or other outputs. Information on emergent findings that can feed more immediately into policy development will be encouraged and should be made available as appropriate.

18.   A final report on the research, with an accessible executive summary, will be required within one month following completion of the research. The report will be peer reviewed and may be circulated among relevant stakeholders within the Department of Health and Social Care and its partners. Once the study is completed, a summary of the final report will be placed in the public domain, on the Policy Research Programme web pages found at: This is where the outputs resulting from expenditure of public funds are made available for public scrutiny so it is important that the summary of your final report is easily accessible to the lay reader.

19.   Research contractors are obliged to give at least 28 days notice before submission of any publication arising from research funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme. In this instance, ‘publication’ concerns any presentation, paper, press release, report or other output for public dissemination arising from a research project funded by the PRP. Research contractors remain under an obligation to provide notice even after the contract has ended. Publication of PRP-commissioned research is subject to prior consent of the Secretary of State, which will not be withheld unreasonably and cannot be withheld for more than three months from the time the publication is submitted.



20.   Applicants should describe how the research findings could be disseminated most effectively, ensuring that results of this research impact on policy and practice in the NHS, DHSC, and/or in social care.

21.   Publication of scientifically robust research results is encouraged. This could include plans to submit papers to peer reviewed journals, national and regional conferences aimed at service providers, professional bodies and professional leaders. It might also include distribution of executive summaries and newsletters. Less traditional dissemination routes are also welcomed for consideration.



22.   In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this tender may be published in its entirety to the general public. Further information on the transparency agenda is at:

23.   If you wish to view the standard terms and conditions of the NIHR Policy Research Programme contract, please go to:


Application process

24.   To access the research specification and application form, please visit the NIHR Policy Research Programme Central Commissioning Facility (NIHR PRP CCF) website at or visit

25.   The NIHR CCF runs an online application process and all applications must be submitted electronically. No applications will be accepted that are submitted by any means other than the online process. Deadlines for the submission of outline and full research applications occur at 1.00 pm on the day indicated and no applications can be accepted after this deadline.

26.   We strongly recommend that you submit your application on the day before. Once the 1.00 pm deadline passes, the system shuts down automatically and CCF Programme Managers are unable to re-open it. If you are experiencing any technical difficulties submitting your application, please contact the CCF on 0208 843 8027 in good time, before 1.00 pm on a closing date.

27.   Applicants are expected, before submitting applications, to have discussed their applications with their own and any other body whose cooperation will be required in conducting the research.

28.   In order for your full application to be validated and submitted you are required to gain electronic approval from the relevant authorities before the application deadline. The Declarations page must be approved:

  1. by the Lead Applicant to confirm that the content of the application is complete and correct.
  2. by an administrative or finance officer for the contracting (host) institution to confirm that the financial details of the application are correct and that the host institution agrees to administer the award if made.
  3. by a Head of Department or Senior Manager to confirm that they have read the
    application and that, if funded, the work will be accommodated and administered in the named institution and that the applicants may undertake the work.

29.   Until this is completed the lead applicant is unable to validate and submit the application.


Commissioning Process

1.   The standard NIHR PRP commissioning cycle includes the following steps:


2.   In the standard 2 Stages’ Commissioning, Stage 1 applications will be short-listed by a Commissioning Panel. Applications too remote from the issues set out in the research specification, or applications that have clearly inadequate presentation or methods may be rejected at this stage.

3.   Applications that are successfully short-listed by the Commissioning Panel will proceed to Stage 2 of the application process and will be invited to submit a Stage 2 full application for consideration.

4.   All full applications submitted to NIHR PRP will be peer-reviewed by both stakeholder and independent academic referees. Wherever time permits, applicants will be given one week to respond to the peer reviewers’ comments.

5.   Full applications, peer reviewers’ comments and any responses to those comments will then be considered by the Commissioning Panel, which is comprised of independent experts (possibly with observers from other government departments and executive agencies), who will advise the NIHR on which applications are most suited to receive funding. The Panel will be informed by the reviewers’ comments and any responses made to these comments by the researchers. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Panel to make any funding recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care.


Selection criteria

6.   The Commissioning Panel members are directed to consider applications against the criteria stated in this research specification as well as selection criteria detailed below:

  • RELEVANCE of the proposed research to the research specification
  • QUALITY of the research design
  • QUALITY of the work plan and proposed management arrangements
  • STRENGTH of the research team
  • IMPACT of the proposed work
  • VALUE for money (justification of the proposed costs)
  • INVOLVEMENT of patients and the public



7.   General enquiries regarding the application and commissioning process can be directed to the PRP CCF Help Desk by telephone at 020 8843 8027 or by email to



[1] ONS, Labour Market Overview, UK: November 2020, Table A08

[2] DWP/DHSC, The employment of disabled people, 2019

[3] DWP/DHSC. Health in the Workplace – Patterns of sickness absence, employer support and employment retention, 2019

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] DWP/DHSC, The employment of disabled people, 2019

[7] Ibid

[8] Marmot, M. Fair society, healthy lives: the Marmot Review: strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010

[9] Public Health England, Local action on health inequalities: promoting good quality jobs, 2015

[10] Hayday, Rick, Caroll, Jagger & Hillage. Review of the Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Interventions, Strategies, Programmes and Policies to Help Recipients of Incapacity Benefits Return to Employment (Paid and Unpaid); 2008

[11] Waddell and Burton. Is work good for your health and well-being? An independent review; 2006

[12] E.g. Black. Working for a healthier tomorrow: work and health in Britain; 2008; Black and Frost. Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence in Great Britain; 2011; DWP/DHSC. Improving lives: The future of work, health and disability; 2017.

[13] DWP/DHSC. Health is Everyone’s Business.: proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss, 2019.

[14] Available from URL: