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UK clinical academic training for nurses, midwives, AHPs and other health and care professionals: principles and obligations


Published: 22 March 2021

Version: 2.0 June 2021

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Aim/ purpose:

This document sets out principles and obligations to support clinical academic training for all UK institutions and early career clinical researchers in receipt of nationally competitive funding for clinical academic research training.


Almost all of the great advances in modern medicine and healthcare have been the product of wide-ranging and collaborative expertise between various different clinical professions. The UK has a strong tradition of clinicians, including nurses, midwives, allied health professionals and healthcare scientists (NMAHPS), who combine their clinical role with academic research. Positioned at the cutting edge of health and social care and science, academic clinicians act as a bridge between the two, pushing forward the frontiers of healthcare innovation.

Aspiring clinical academics face a range of challenges with a need to balance research, and the pressures of clinical service. Careers therefore require careful and sustained support. The development of clinical academics is of strategic importance to all funders and service providers of health related research.

This statement sets out the key principles and obligations for those responsible for clinical service, award holders, higher education institutes (HEIs) and funders across the four nations in the UK to ensure clinical academic researchers are appropriately supported at critical stages and through the most important transitions in their careers.

These requirements are informed by recent reviews including a cross funder review of early career clinical academics which identified enablers and barriers to progression; existing guidance (including RCUK’s 2016 Statement of Expectations for Postgraduate Training), recommendations and statements of best practice and where relevant the Follett Principles.

However, it is noted that support for early career clinical academics sits within an evolving landscape and therefore, this statement will be reviewed and updated on an on-going basis.

The principles and obligations outlined below have been developed with input from a number of stakeholders. The following organisations have signed up to these;

The NIHR, Health Education England, Council of Deans of Health, Cancer Research UK, NHS England Chief Nurse, Versus Arthritis, University Hospital Association, The Shelford Group, Council for Allied Health Professions Research, Joint Council of Deans of Health Scotland, Scottish Executive Nurse Directors Research Advisory Group, Royal College of Nursing


Early career researchers from clinical backgrounds - nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, healthcare scientists and other communities of clinicians must operate within an early career researcher centred and mentored framework overseen and implemented by a local designated academic lead from the associated Higher Education Institute and the local NHS trust or equivalent Research and Development (R&D) Director as well as the local Directors of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals where relevant.

Obligations of those responsible for supporting clinical academics:

  • An organisational lead with responsibility for personal award holders, who will be the point of contact for funders, must be identified. We expect that this will usually be the Research and Development (R&D) Director within the NHS Trust or equivalent and within the University will be at Dean level or a designated academic lead with sufficient seniority to be empowered within the host organisation.
  • Where research is being conducted in a clinical academic role between the NHS and research institution, early career researcher support must be personalised, planned and integrated across both clinical and academic areas. Immersion in academic research for periods of time is an essential part of career development, equally as important as clinical service time. Flexibility in managing service and research commitments should be the norm for early career researchers, with sufficient protected time for research to allow development of the research competencies required for successful completion of the research award. For nationally competitive personal award holders employed by the NHS, Trust or equivalent Research and Development (R&D) Directors must ensure research time is protected through the job planning process. Job plans should include dedicated research time commensurate with the award, be conducted in line with the Follett principles and be approved by the R&D Director or someone of equivalence e.g. Director of Nursing/AHPs. This should be audited for compliance.
  • The University designated academic lead for award holders should work collaboratively with the NHS R&D Director to ensure barriers to integration across academic bodies and NHS functions are addressed. As above, individual job plans for individuals on nationally competitive training awards must ensure that protected research time is enabled and supported. Where the post is held within a University, the University academic lead will be the accountable officer to ensure the terms and conditions of the award are fully met in a timely fashion: within the Trust or equivalent it will be the R&D Director.
  • Where individuals, on nationally competitive training awards, are required to change employers to pursue their clinical academic career pathway certain occupational benefits, which have accrued as a result of continuous service of employment, must be protected. This includes any changes in employer from a NHS trust or equivalent/board to an academic institution or vice versa, there should be no detriment to moving in either direction. These include as a minimum all family and carer-related leave and pay (not limited to gender or sexual orientation) and sick leave and pay (irrespective of disability status or health history). These principles should be explicitly agreed between the NHS employing organisation and HEI in advance of the individual clinical academic starting their award.
  • Organisations, including the NHS employing organisation and HEIs, must have a clear joint plan and career pathway for promoting and achieving a diverse clinical academic workforce, along all protected characteristics and in all clinical specialties. Similar plans must exist with respect to the composition of the supervisory and mentoring pool as well as the management structure.
  • Early career researchers must have access to high quality mentorship, leadership and support from across the breadth of available health professions to help the individual pursue their next career steps. An organisational policy should be available to support fair and transparent career development with a framework for the integration, including career progression, of the clinical academic within the clinical service.
  • Where relevant, early career researchers must have access to appropriate programmes of research and management skills education and training including but not limited to methodological frameworks, informatics, robust research methods, health economic evaluation, statistics, advanced qualitative analysis, data analytics, ethics, PPIE and core aspects of management and leadership training relevant to career stage as defined within their award.
  • To participate in and facilitate the collection and sharing of data, tracking the careers of academic early career researchers and those that have passed through academic development.

Obligations of Early Career Researchers:

  • To ensure that all appropriate and necessary contractual and supervisory arrangements are in place before commencing their researcher development programme.
  • To take responsibility for their career development and performance both academically and clinically.
  • To fully engage with their academic development programme and, in particular, together with advice from supervisors, manage and direct their research project and education in line with their funder’s guidance on good research practice.
  • To fully engage with the professional responsibilities laid out by the professional regulator e.g. HCPC or the Nursing and Midwifery Council. To provide feedback to enable effective monitoring and assurance of the application of these principles on request.
  • To assist in the collection of data necessary to track their careers.
  • Early career researchers are expected to provide support and guidance to clinical students and more junior colleagues on the clinical academic career pathway, acting as clinical academic role models and informing clinical teams of the value of research.

Obligations of the Funder:

  • To provide support and input where required in ensuring that all the necessary contractual and supervisory arrangements are in place prior to the clinical academic development programme commencing.
  • To ensure that their approach to funding clinical academic careers is appropriately tailored to career stage, clear, accessible and easy to engage with.
  • To support clinicians during this period of researcher development, consistent with the principles outlined in this document.
  • To develop a meaningful approach to assurance of clinical academic support and ways to facilitate and share best practice. Detailed guidance will be developed in partnership across funders to enable effective monitoring of progress with the translation of these principles into practice.
  • To include these principles and obligations in their term