Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

RfPB Under-represented disciplines and specialisms highlight notice: Nurses and Midwives - Call Specification


Published: 28 November 2022

Version: 3.1- January 2024

Print this document


  • The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme launched a series of highlight notices in support of NIHR strategy to strengthen careers of under-represented disciplines and specialisms. 
  • The first highlight notice of this initiative is inviting applications led by nurses and midwives. This call will be followed by two further calls focusing on methodologists and allied health professionals.
  • To support capacity building, all applications to this call must be led by a nurse or a midwife at an early stage of their research career. They can apply as either the lead or joint-lead applicant together with a senior colleague fulfilling the other role. Both the lead and joint-lead applicants must have a background in nursing or midwifery.  We are keen to encourage fresh ideas from new researchers and appropriate applications are welcomed from those with limited research experience when supported by an experienced, strong and multi-disciplinary team.
  • The call offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic provided the application is within RfPB remit. Please note that topics around workforce including staff retention are in scope for this call as long as there is trajectory to patient benefit clearly outlined.
  • Our funding decisions are based on several criteria including quality, timeliness, potential impact and value for money. 
  • The call is for proposals up to £500,000 for a period of up to three years. The RfPB tiered approach to funding limits according to the trajectory to patient benefit also applies to this call. 
  • This call has now closed. The submission deadline for applications was on 17 May 2023 at 1 pm
  • We hosted an online launch event with a live Q and A session on Monday 16 January 2023. The recording of the webinar is available below.
  • Got a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? The Research Design Service (RDS) supports health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a funding application. Find out how the RDS can help with your application.

In Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter document, NIHR identified seven areas where we need to deliver transformative change. One of these areas of strategic focus is to bring clinical and applied research to regions and communities which have major health needs. The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme has previously held funding competitions linked to this focus such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the North East and Mental Health in Northern England.  Another area of strategic focus aims to strengthen careers for under-represented disciplines and specialisms. The Research for Patient Benefit programme has a strong track record of supporting researchers with limited research experience (early career researchers) to build future capacity and capability and integrate research into clinical practice. In the next steps, the programme plans to further engage with researchers from historically under-represented disciplines and specialisms to enable capacity building in these areas. RfPB will be launching a series of separate highlight notices focusing on the following healthcare professionals and researchers:

  • Nurses and Midwives
  • Methodologists
  • Allied Health Professionals

In a recent review of the RfPB programme’s funded portfolio we found that the majority of applicants funded by RfPB, both in lead and co-applicant roles, are medically qualified professionals and methodologists, while professions such as nurses or midwives, allied health professionals and other registered health and care professionals (i.e. clinical psychologist, pharmacist, audiologist, social worker etc.) are a minority (Fig. 1).

Professional BackgroundPercentage of funded applicants
Allied Health Professional 5%
Medically qualified 41%
Methodologist 36%
Nurse and Midwife 8%
Other Registered Health and Care Professional 9%

Total number of applicants in the analysis: 3660

Figure 1. The table shows the professional background of RfPB-funded applicants. Forty-one percent of the funded applicants are medically qualified followed by methodologists who are thirty-six percent of the funded applicants. Other Registered Health Professionals constitute nine percent, Nurses and Midwives eight percent and Allied Health Professionals five percent. 

Medically qualified professionals tend to lead projects most frequently, which is in contrast to methodologists who less commonly take on leading roles. Similarly, we have seen that researchers from other professions such as nurses, midwives or allied health professionals tend to be co-applicants and function in supporting roles in the delivery of research projects (Fig. 2). Consequently, this limits access to career development opportunities associated with leading a project, which is especially important for early career researchers. To address this, RfPB has developed a series of highlight notices to support those health and care professionals and researchers who regularly or occasionally are involved in RfPB-funded projects as co-applicants but rarely as lead applicants. We expect to enrich the breadth of the RfPB portfolio with projects conceptualised from the diverse perspective these professions will bring.

Professional BackgroundRole

Allied Health Professional  68 229
Medically qualified 641 1710
Methodologist 265 2147
Nurses and Midwives 80 335
Other Registered Health and Care Professional 120 382

Figure 2. The table shows that RfPB-funded projects are mainly led by medically qualified professionals. On average, medically qualified professionals would appear 2.7 times more frequently as co-applicants than as lead applicants, while for other professions co-applicant's involvement is much more frequent than being the lead applicant. For example, methodologists are involved in RfPB-funded projects 8 times more frequently as co-applicants than as lead applicants and nurses and midwives are 4.2 times more frequently involved as co-applicants than as lead applicants. 

Researchers with a background in nursing and midwifery are almost half as likely to lead RfPB-funded projects than medically trained professionals. In the first of these three highlight notices, RfPB invites nurses and midwives to submit applications as lead applicants and encourages these professionals to continue applying to RfPB regular calls for further opportunities. The RfPB programme is researcher-led and does not specify topics for research, so applications can be primary, secondary and evidence synthesis research and include quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, and economic model designs.

Below is a selection of RfPB-funded awards led by nurses or midwives. They showcase various study designs and research settings and are led by nurses and midwives at different career stages who have different specialism.


Applications should be within RfPB scope. Please note that workforce, including topics around staff retention, are in scope for this call as long as the trajectory to patient benefit is clearly outlined. Applications should be led by a researcher with a nursing or midwifery background. Applications should be jointly led by an early career researcher and a senior researcher, both with either a nursing or midwifery background. 

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 Briefing notes for researchers - public involvement in NHS, health and social care research.

RfPB is a response mode/researcher-led funding programme for applied health and care research. As such, the research needs to have a demonstrable impact on the health or health care of users of that service. While it deliberately does not specify topics to be covered, you are encouraged to read the programme's aims and scope statements. The potential trajectory to patient benefit is a major selection criteria, so ensure you make a clear case for the patient and/or public benefit arising from the study. Alongside rigorous research designs and methodologies, we also look for dissemination strategies that will enhance the likelihood that the results can be rolled out across the health and care sector.

Call details

Requirements for applications submitted under the highlight notice:

  • Standard eligibility rules will apply as detailed in the applicant guidance
  • To encourage early career researchers* (ECRs) to lead on RfPB awards, we require ECRs to  apply as either the lead applicant or joint-lead applicants and be supported by a senior researcher and by a strong research team. 
  • Both lead and joint lead applicants will have a professional background in nursing or midwifery.
  • Host eligibility will include an NHS body or other provider of NHS services in England. Other relevant organisations and authorities are permitted as co-applicants but not necessarily host/lead organisations.

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


The call is for applications up to £500,000 (100% direct costs for NHS and 80% full Economic Cost (fEC) for HEI) for a period of up to three years. Detailed information on eligible costs can be found in the RfPB’s Finance guidance.

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

How to apply

Application process and assessment criteria

  • The applications submitted under the highlight notice will undergo routine scrutiny and  will be assessed on their quality and individual merits according to standard RfPB scheme criteria. Reviewers will also be asked to consider fit to the highlight notice.
  • Applications will be considered by a cross-disciplinary expert assessment Committee weighted towards the particular professions the call focuses on. Committee members will be drawn from existing RfPB Committees with the additions of other experts as appropriate. 
  • The standard RfPB two stage application process will apply to applications submitted under this notice. Applicants must submit an online application via the RMS. Templates of Stage 1 and Stage 2 application forms are available. To assist the funders in preparing for peer review, research teams must submit their expression of interest by 21 April 2023 at 5 pm. Please note that the expression of interest will not be part of the assessment process and it will not be necessary for it to summarise the fully developed application.

Call Timetable

Activity Time
Launch Webinar 16 January 2023 (registration closed)
Call Launch  25 January 2023
Expression of Interest 21 April 2023
Call Close 17 May 2023 at 13:00
Invited to Stage 2 Decision  W/C 16 August 2023 (Stage 1 Meeting)
Funding Decisions W/C 19 December 2023 (Stage 2 Meeting)

Please contact for further queries.

Got a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? The Research Design Service (RDS) supports health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a funding application. Find out how the RDS can help with your application.


View the nurses and midwives webinar held on 16 January 2023, hosted by the RfPB team at NIHR.

Background Documents

Professor Rebecca Kearney is Chair of the Nurses and Midwives Regional Advisory Committee (A and B) for NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Under-represented Disciplines and Specialisms. 

Committee A members

Name Position 
Professor Elizabeth Barley Professor of mental health sciences and nursing
Professor Penny Bee  Professor of Applied mental health research, Director of Research & Innovation
Professor Debra Bick Professor of Clinical Trials in Maternal Health
Mrs Jacqueline Birks Senior Medical Statistician
Mrs Wendy Blunden Public Reviewer
Ms Louise Bramley Head of Nursing and Midwifery Research at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH)
Dr Elizabeth Camacho Senior Health Economist
Dr Alison Cooke Assistant Director Of Nursing (NMAHP) Research and Innovation at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
Professor Fiona Cowdell Professor of Nursing and Health Research
Dr Keith Couper Associate Professor in Emergency and Critical Care, Warwick Medical School, Warwick Clinical trials Unit
Professor Vari Drennan Professor of Health Care & Policy Research
Dr Kerry Evans Associate Professor of Midwifery
Dr Apostolos Fakis Head of Medical Statistics and Data Management and Honorary Assistant Professor
Dr Clare Gillies Associate Professor in Medical Statistics
Professor Annette Hand Professor of Nursing – Clinical Academic
Professor Alexander Heazell Professor of Obstetrics and Consultant Obstetrician,Senior Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics and Clinical Director of the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre, University of Manchester, UK
Dr Catherine Henshall Reader in Nursing Research, Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery
Dr Verna Lavender Head of Nursing for Research and Education, Cancer and Surgery
Dr Joseph Manning Clinical Associate Professor in Children, Young People and Families Nursing at NHS
Dr Susie Pearce Associate Professor (Research) in Nursing at the University of Plymouth and Co-Director of the Torbay and South Devon Clinical School which is part of the SW Regional Clinical Academic School
Professor George Peat Director, Centre for Applied Health & Social Care Research (CARe), Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Allied Health Professions
College of Health, Wellbeing & Life Sciences,Sheffield Hallam University
Miss Louise Rowan Public Reviewer
Mr Philip Ruthen Public Reviewer
Professor Jill Shawe Professor of maternal and family health
Professor Eila Watson Professor in Supportive Cancer care
Dr Adam Wagner Research Fellow in the Health Economics Group at the University of East Anglia (UEA)
Mr Simon Walker Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Economics, University of York

Committee B members

Name Position 
Dr Elizabeth Bancroft Oncogenetics Research Nurse Consultant, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation trust
Dr Jo Brett  Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University
Professor Michelle Briggs Clinical Professor of Nursing & Director, The University of Manchester
Miss Eva Broeckelmann Public Reviewer
Professor Katherine Brown Consultant in Children’s Intensive Care, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Professor, Institute Cardiovascular Science, University College London
Dr Christy Burden Associate Professor in Obstetrics, Head of the Academic Women's health unit, University of Bristol, Bristol Medical School
Dr Nicola Clibbens Associate Professor Mental Health Nursing
Professor Jane Coad Children's Nurse and Clinical Academic Professor, Nottingham University
Dr Joanne Cooper Head of Nursing Research, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Professor Robert Crouch OBE Consultant Nurse & Honorary Professor – Emergency Care, University of Southampton
Dr Toity Deave Associate Professor Family & Child Health, University of West of England, Bristol. Dept Nursing & Midwifery
Dr Lynsey Gregg Senior Lecturer, Division of Psychology & Mental Health
Professor Vanora Hundley Professor of Midwifery, University of Bournemouth
Dr Louise Jackson Senior Lecturer, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham
Dr Rachael Kelley Reader in Dementia Research
Professor Sara Kenyon Professor of Evidence Based Maternity Care, University of Birmingham
Professor Susan Kirk Professor of Family and Child Health, University of Manchester
Dr Erik Lenguerrand Senior Lecturer, Medical Statistician & Quantitative Epidemiologist, Translational Health Sciences,Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol
Professor Antonieta Medina-Lara Associate Professor in Health Economics, University of Exeter
Dr Jacqueline Mitton Public Reviewer
Dr Sina Odugbemi Public Reviewer
Professor Jane Sandall Head of Midwifery and Maternity Research, King's College
Dr Victoria Serra-Sastre Senior Lecturer in Economics, Department of Economics at City, University of London.
Professor Sue Todd Professor of Medical Statistics, University of Reading
Dr Wendy Wood Director of Brighton & Sussex Clinical Trials Unit, University of Brighton
Dr Nicola Wright Associate Professor in Mental Health, University of Nottingham

Latest Documents