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Health and Social Care Delivery Research

The Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence to improve the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care services.

The Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme is funded by the NIHR with specific contributions from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

All of our funded projects are eligible for publication in the NIHR Journals Library. This open access resource is freely available online, and provides a full and permanent record of NIHR-funded research.

Latest funding opportunities for Health and Social Care Delivery Research

All HSDR funding opportunities


The HSDR programme funds evaluative research that has the potential to improve health and social care services. Research may be primary (qualitative and/or quantitative), secondary and evidence syntheses. Typical projects are mixed-methods studies with a clear focus on the organisation and quality of care. There should also be a focus on the experience of patients, staff and service users. Projects will often include an analysis of routine and linked data on service use, activity and outcomes. A variety of study designs are considered and examples include:

  • major implementation studies on stroke configuration
  • pragmatic trials of risk stratification tools
  • evaluation of complex frailty hubs
  • evidence synthesis of strengths-based approaches to social work practice
  • realist evaluation of intentional nursing rounds
  • organisational studies on effective board governance
  • ethnographic research on the experience of inpatients with dementia in hospital wards

Helping people with dementia to be heard

NIHR supported researchers to develop a specialised training course to give healthcare professionals the knowledge, confidence and skills to communicate sensitively with patients with dementia. More than 15,000 people have completed the training.

What we fund

HSDR funds research projects, not programmes or ongoing work. The projects must have:

  • a clearly defined research question
  • clear aims and objectives
  • a description of how the planned methodology is likely to achieve these objectives.

Applicants will need to explain how the findings of their research will synthesised together into useful outputs for service, academic, and public audiences. There will also need to be a plan for how these findings will be communicated and demonstrate impact.

The Programme will not typically fund:

  • Quality and service improvement work without broader theoretical approach or research framing.
  • Small-scale exploratory or descriptive studies without an intervention or pathway to impact. There may be cases in which mapping work is needed to understand new service needs or patterns, but there should be a clear pathway to useful knowledge and national action, engaging relevant stakeholders.
  • Feasibility or pilot studies which do not generate broader learning in their own right. This might mean work to refine complex interventions and test in different contexts, rather than simply precursors to large-scale trials or studies.
  • Databases or repositories to support research.

Success rates

Our people

In this section you can read more on the people involved in the assessment of applications for the Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme, read the minutes of previous funding decisions and find out more about becoming a reviewer or a Committee member.

A large number of people are involved in assessing the research proposals received by the HSDR Programme to ensure that the projects are assessed in a clear and fair way, embracing the latest expertise, knowledge and opinion.

Members of NIHR Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

Our Director

Professor Kathy Rowan

Our Deputy Director

Professor Judith Smith

HSDR Funding Committee

The HSDR Funding Committee assesses stage 1 and 2 proposals received through the commissioned and researcher-led workstreams. At stage one, the committee considers applications primarily for need and importance, and at stage two primarily for scientific quality and value for money. The committee is composed of experts from a range of disciplines relevant to health and social care delivery research, and public contributors. 


Our community of reviewers play a vital part in maintaining and improving the quality of the HSDR Programme projects and outputs. They are sought from a variety of fields, including from those who work in and use health and social care services.

To demonstrate our gratitude to our reviewers, and acknowledge the important work they do for the programme, the names of the past year’s reviewers can be found on our reviewers list.

Contact us

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch.

For help with applying for HSDR funding:

Tel: 023 8059 4304

Do you need help getting started? Contact the Research Support Service.

Do you need assistance running your study in the NHS? Contact the Study Support Service.

Fast-track scheme

Fast-track scheme

 Most research supported by the HSDR Programme will follow the normal two-stage process of assessment before being funded. However, it may sometimes be necessary to accelerate the handling of a topic and in such circumstances researchers may be eligible to apply through the fast-track scheme.

The fast-track scheme provides an opportunity to submit a stage 2 proposal directly, shortening the length of time it takes for a funding decision to be made.  However, please bear in mind that proposals accepted onto the fast-track scheme will be considered on equal terms with other stage 2 proposals which have had the benefit of feedback by the Research Funding Committee at stage 1.

If you would like your proposal to be considered for the fast-track scheme, please contact You will be asked to:

  • convince the secretariat that there is significant benefit to fast-tracking your application

  • submit a written summary of your proposal (usually about one side of A4) in a PICO format if appropriate and describe the study briefly in terms of aims, research questions, outcome measures, scale, PPI, inclusion, stakeholder engagement, outputs and dissemination

The information you provide will then be considered, and you will be informed whether your proposal is eligible for fast-tracking. If it is, you will be provided with more information about submitting your stage 2 application, and the timescales for doing this.