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Programme Grants for Applied Research in partnership with Versus Arthritis


Published: 18 June 2019

Version: 1.0 - June 2019

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Pain priority for Versus Arthritis

Understanding, treating and managing pain is among the greatest challenges facing healthcare today and is a high priority for people with arthritis. Musculoskeletal pain impacts heavily on the workforce with huge socioeconomic implications. Up to 28 million people in the UK are affected by chronic pain, 75% of which is musculoskeletal in origin.

Ongoing moderate and severe chronic pain remains a substantial daily problem for people with arthritis even when the underlying disease is controlled (inflammatory arthritis) or removed completely (joint replacement in osteoarthritis). This pain often persists for decades, is poorly controlled by current treatment options and is comorbid with debilitating fatigue, cognitive and mental health issues. Versus Arthritis doesn’t accept that millions of people with arthritis across the UK should have to live in pain.

The Versus Arthritis pain research roadmap prioritises 14 challenges to be overcome to understand, treat and prevent pain. Versus Arthritis are partnering with NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) to address Pain Roadmap priorities in disease management and applied health research. Co-funding is available for appropriate studies for all PGfAR funding rounds open in 2019 with potential for ongoing activity in 2020.

Scope of funding

Through this partnership call for applications we are striving to fund proposals in three of the four Pain roadmap themes: Stratification, Management and Support and Prevention. Proposals are sought that seek to address research questions in the roadmap priorities noted below, proposals are not limited to the exemplar issues within the priority areas. Applicants should involve people with arthritis in the development of their proposal, as well as collaborating with them in the delivery of the proposed research. The roadmap notes the role of Data, Technology, Industry and Collaboration as enablers to addressing issues in the priority areas.


Developing or testing new approaches to treating and managing musculoskeletal pain, including (Pain Roadmap priority 7):

  • Investigating how best to initiate, maintain and support adaptive behavioural change in supported self-management of chronic pain. Stratification to personalise musculoskeletal care.


Musculoskeletal pain impacts heavily on the workforce with huge socio-economic implications (Pain Roadmap priority 8):

  • Development and testing of new and sustainable models of workplace interventions and practice to help people with musculoskeletal pain maintain healthy working lives.


People with arthritis have told us that rheumatology and pain healthcare services are not currently organised to meet their needs (Pain Roadmap priority 9):

  • Development of approaches to achieve a more responsive and effective support service for people with musculoskeletal pain.

Under-represented groups

Musculoskeletal pain has a greater impact on under-represented and hard-to-reach groups, but research in diverse groups is lagging behind (Pain Roadmap priority 4):

  • Research providing practical application of how to reach and engage these groups in the management of chronic pain.


Public health strategy could prevent the development of future musculoskeletal pain (Pain Roadmap priority 11):

  • Preventing the transition from acute to chronic pain. Identifying and managing risk factors for developing chronic pain and how/when to intervene. Exploring the organisation of public health and healthcare services to support prevention.

About Versus Arthritis – demanding more for people with arthritis

Launched on 19 September 2018, Versus Arthritis is a new charity formed from the merger of Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care. We’re the 10 million people living with arthritis. We are Versus Arthritis.

Arthritis is often dismissed as something that is inevitable, insignificant and untreatable; shrugged off as ‘just a bit of arthritis’. Arthritis is none of these things and we no longer accept it as something that has to just be lived with; no-one has to tolerate the pain, fatigue and isolation of arthritis. We are pushing back by funding research, providing support and campaigning for arthritis to be seen as a priority.

How to apply

Please submit your application through the RMS.

Case study

Read our case study on joint funding with Versus Arthritis - Professor Danielle van der Windt at Keele University describes why her research into shoulder pain is so important and how NIHR charity co-funding made it happen.