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What to consider when choosing your Host Organisation for an NIHR Personal Award as a clinical/practitioner academic


Published: 17 January 2024

Version: 1.0 - January 2024

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For your personal award, your Host Organisation, which is the organisation which will hold the contract with the funder of your award, for example the NIHR (Department of Health and Social Care), can be a recognised Higher Education Institution (HEI), an NHS body or any other provider of publicly or third sector funded health and/or social care services (for example, a commissioned social enterprise, local authority or hospice).

You can choose to be employed by either the Host Organisation or named Partner Organisation. You must have either a substantive contract or honorary contract with the Host Organisation for the duration of the award.

If your Host Organisation is a HEI and you're substantively employed by a HEI, you will also need to have an honorary contract set up, if you are undertaking clinical/practice work with whichever organisation you are undertaking this.

This document is for individuals looking to combine research and clinical/practice time as part of a personal award. It is written to be applicable to all clinical and practitioner professions, however if you are a doctor or dentist undertaking clinical training then there will be additional considerations that this document doesn’t cover. You should also refer to the Clinical Academic Training Principles and Obligations for Medicine and Dentistry.

Deciding who is the Host Organisation

Ultimately, the choice of Host Organisation must be what is best for your individual circumstances. You may elect to choose an HEI to host your award: this is common, but not necessarily the right choice for everyone. If you have concerns that the guidelines outlined within this document are not being followed within your intended Host Organisation you are advised to contact the NIHR to discuss further.

If you do choose to change employers from an NHS/other provider employer to a HEI to undertake your award, this is supported through the Principle and Obligations of clinical academic training. Key elements of the Principles and Obligations document emphasise that joint working between NHS/other provider and HEIs is critical: where individuals change employers for the purposes of taking up a clinical/practitioner academic award, certain occupational benefits which have accrued as a result of continuous service in the NHS/other provider or HEI, must be protected.

All contracts for personal awards state:

In the event of the awardee having changed employers to become a new employee of the Contractor, as a result of taking up this award in order to pursue a career as part of their clinical academic career pathway, certain accrued occupational benefits which are linked to continued HEI or NHS/other provider service of employment shall be protected by the contractor. These rights include, but not limited to, all family care related leave (irrespective of gender or sexual orientation), annual leave and sick leave (irrespective of disability status or health history).

However if you do choose to have your award hosted at a HEI, you don’t necessarily need to change your substantive employer (see below).

When choosing your Host, you may wish to consider what experience both the potential HEI and NHS/other provider organisation(s) have of managing/hosting personal awards. You may also wish to speak to others who have either stayed or changed their organisations as well as your proposed supervisors to understand their experience of hosting arrangements within your organisation.

If your Host Organisation will be different from your current substantive employer, there are different options:

  • you can apply to be seconded out to the HEI (assuming you are currently NHS/other provider employed) and retain your substantive employment within the NHS/other provider
  • you can change your employment to the HEI
  • two separate contracts, which would usually be one with the HEI for the personal award and one with the NHS/provider employer for clinical/practice time

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages.

If you change your employment to an HEI, either as a secondment or new contract of employment, you should seek to secure agreement from your current NHS/other provider employer (in writing from someone with sufficient authority and this should also be reflected explicitly within the Host Organisation’s statement of support) that your post will be held open at the same level as you left it, although you should be aware that NHS/other provider policies usually indicate this could involve returning to a different role, potentially within a different department.

While this is up to the individual NHS/other provider, most organisations will want to retain an individual who has been awarded a prestigious award that is patient/NHS/care focused as NIHR awards are. You may also wish to speak to your Trust R&D Director or Chief Nurse (or equivalent) to help with these negotiations, to agree an arrangement that fits your individual circumstances. If your NHS /other provider organisation is new to NIHR personal awards, either as a Host or Partner Organisation, it may be helpful to find out what arrangements other NIHR Academy Members have in place in neighbouring organisations and share these with your own organisation.

Read more about current and previous NIHR awards.

While the Principle and Obligations documents include principles that should be adhered to in the case of changing employment, you will need to consider the following which may influence your decision to remain substantively employed with your current NHS Trust/other provider or move to a HEI:

  • Have you discussed with the HEI whether you will be able to continue to pay into your NHS/oher provider pension and will the HEI as your employer continue to pay the necessary employer contributions? Your academic supervisor will be able to signpost you to the appropriate HR person/pensions department in the HEI to confirm this. It is important to have this confirmed in writing.
  • Do you have any salary sacrifice schemes (e.g. car or child care) linked to your employment with the NHS/other provider? These can often not be easily moved from the NHS/other providers to a HEI.
  • Have you spoken to people who have remained with an NHS/other provider or moved to an HEI to undertake their personal award? What were their experiences?
  • Have you discussed with the HEI end of contract arrangements, as many HEIs offer a fixed term contract for the duration of the award.

Costing issues to consider

While the Host Organisation can be either an NHS body, HEI or any other provider of publicly or third sector funded health and/or social care services, different funding arrangements apply to each organisation. Further details are available within individual application guidance notes.

Whoever your chosen host is, they will be responsible for costing the application. If you will be hosted by a HEI and currently NHS or other provider employed, your clinical/practice salary should be used to arrive at your HEI salary costs. Clinical/practice salary scales (for example, Agenda for Change) are not necessarily equivalent to HEI salary scales so you should ensure the application is costed using appropriate scales for your current clinical/practice post (you should not be expected to take a cut in salary to undertake a clinical/practitioner academic personal award). You should discuss this with the host’s Research, HR and Research Finance teams early in the process.

Partnership working and sustaining relationships

For any clinical/practice academic fellowship opportunity, close partnership working between the HEI and NHS or other provider is essential.

To reach a decision on the hosting and employment arrangements best suited to you and your career development, discussions on what is the most appropriate for you and your circumstances should commence well in advance of submitting your application for a personal award.

Once you have commenced your award, whether this is hosted in a HEI or NHS/other provider organisation and whether you are employed by the HEI or NHS/other provider, good practice is for there to be close working relationships between your NHS/other provider manager and your academic supervisors/mentors: joint appraisals and job planning are critical to the success of a personal award. An agreement in writing between all parties before an award commences is encouraged here to ensure everyone is aware of expectations.

These collaborative ways of working should continue throughout the award and support you with career planning as you come towards the end of your award and making plans for next steps (for example, re-entering the NHS/other provider organisation, applying for further research/career development funding, commencing a clinical/practice academic role within the NHS/other provider organisation).

Most importantly, you need to start these discussions early in the preparation of your personal award application.


Choosing your host

Speak to:

  • your line manager
  • other senior NHS/provider managers
  • your academic supervisors
  • others who have been through the process


  • will a new host be able to continue with your NHS/other provider pension contributions
  • do you have any salary sacrifice schemes which may not be able to be moved?
  • what are the end of fellowship arrangements with NHS/other provider or HEI?

Preparing the application


  • who will cost your fellowship in your host organisation
  • who can provide your salary details if you are changing your Host Organisation
  • who are the HR team in both your HEI and Trust/Provider if you are choosing to change your Host Organisation or be seconded out to the HEI
  • the arrangements for transitioning in your organisation as a result of securing a personal fellowship


  • you have written agreement to return to your employing organisation at the end of the personal award if you are moving employers or being seconded out
  • your line manager is involved in these discussions

When you are awarded the grant


  • all participants who have been involved in your application so contracting can commence
  • your HR team in your HEI if you are changing employing organisations or being seconded out so they can ensure that the appropriate arrangements (such as job description, etc) are in place for you to start
  • your supervisors to ensure that your PhD enrolment can commence

Discuss and agree:

  • the joint job plan and plans for appraisal with your HEI and Trust/Provider and ensure that all parties attend

During the grant


  • review points for joint annual job planning through appraisal with your HEI and Trust/Provider and ensure that all parties attend
  • plan to discuss what you will do once your award ends as the grant is finishing

As the grant is finishing


  • with your line manager the arrangements for your return to NHS/other provider activity
  • plans with HR for your return to your original organisation if your Host Organisation was an HEI, identifying your specific return date to ensure that there is no loss of continuity of employment