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Health Technology Assessment

Healthcare assistant dressing leg for patient in hospital

Summary

The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme funds research about the clinical and cost-effectiveness, and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests, for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS and social care services.

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

HTA research is undertaken where some evidence already exists to show that a technology can be effective, and this needs to be compared to the current standard intervention to see which works best.

Research can evaluate any intervention used in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease, provided the study outcomes lead to findings that have the potential to be of direct benefit to patients.

The HTA Programme needs to be convinced that an intervention is ready for HTA evaluation. We've prepared a document outlining the issues that may determine this judgement.

The researcher-led workstream offers researchers the opportunity to submit proposals on topics or research questions within the programme’s remit. The commissioned workstream invites applications in response to calls for research on specific questions, which have been identified and prioritised for their importance to the NHS and patients. Proposals may include primary research, evidence synthesis, or feasibility and pilot studies, when requested within the commissioning brief.

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 permanent record of NIHR-funded research.

Scope

The HTA Programme supports research that is immediately useful to patients, clinical practice, and policy or decision makers.

HTA research is undertaken when evidence exists to show that a technology can be effective. The purpose of an HTA study is to establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness for the NHS in comparison with the current best alternatives. A study may also investigate uncertainty around a technology’s place in the existing care pathway.

What are technologies?

“Technologies” in this context mean any method used to promote health, prevent and treat disease, and improve rehabilitation or long-term care. They are not confined to new drugs and include any intervention used in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease.

Examples include:

  • procedures
  • drugs
  • devices
  • diagnostic tests
  • settings of care
  • screening programmes

The technology doesn't necessarily need to exist in current NHS practice, but a study would need to show that it could. Health Technology Assessment asks important questions about these technologies such as:

  • when is counselling better than drug treatment for depression?
  • what is the best operation for aortic aneurysms?
  • should we screen for human papilloma virus when doing cervical smears?
  • should aspirin be used for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease?

It answers these questions by investigating four main factors:

  • whether the technology works
  • for whom
  • at what cost
  • how it compares with the alternatives

Which programme should I apply to?

The Guidance for identifying funding schemes for clinical studies compares the remits of NIHR and MRC translational research programmes to help researchers to determine which funding scheme is the most appropriate for their proposed project.

New pathway to monitor diabetic eye disease cuts waiting times

Through the HTA programme, we funded research which showed a new approach to monitoring people with diabetic retinopathy could reduce pressures on ophthalmologists and save up to £1,390 per 100 patients. The research has informed guidance for NHS eye care professionals and is helping reshape ophthalmology services.

What we fund

The HTA Programme will support

  • systematic reviews
  • economic models
  • meta-analyses
  • mixed-treatment comparisons
  • expected Value of Information studies
  • randomised controlled trials (unblinded, single-blinded, double-blinded, triple-blinded)
  • non-randomised trials
  • single-centre studies where a strong case has been made for this type of design and there is assurance the results will be generalizable to the wider NHS
  • cohort studies (retrospective or prospective)
  • adaptive designs
  • modelling studies
  • international studies

The HTA Programme will not support

  • phase 2 trials (our EME Programme may be more suitable)
  • research on new equipment
  • PhD research
  • The HTA will not fund standalone pilot and feasibility studies unless requested within a commissioning brief

Success rates

Our people

New developments in health research funding are transforming the way research in the NHS is organised and carried out. The HTA  Programme invites and works with a range of individuals to meet the research needs of the NHS. Their support and input allows us to fund high-quality, evidence-based, value for money research.

The people who work in, work with or use NHS services provide vital input into all stages of the HTA Programme.

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. Find out more about becoming a reviewer or a Committee member.

Our Director

Professor Andrew Farmer

Our committees

The HTA Committees meet 3 times a year to assess the scientific merit of proposals submitted to both the commissioned and researcher-led workstreams, including themed calls and evidence synthesis proposals, and to make funding recommendations to the Programme Oversight Committee.
View the members of our committees:

Funding Committee minutes and outcomes.

Reviewers

To assure the scientific quality of its research, the HTA Programme relies upon the help of external reviewers to review:

  • the research and commissioning briefs it produces
  • the research proposals it receives
  • the final reports of research findings

External reviewers play a vital part in maintaining and improving the quality of HTA Programme research and are sought from a variety of fields, including clinical, methodological and 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.

Transforming prostate cancer diagnosis for men around the world

The HTA programme supported one of the most important developments in prostate cancer diagnosis for 50 years. Research showed that using MRI scans improved detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer, while reducing the need for biopsies. Using MRI first is now official NHS guidance.

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 HTA funding by telephone please call 023 8059 5544.

To enquire by email for a commissioned call query please contact htacommissioning@nihr.ac.uk

To enquire by email for a researcher led call query please email htacet@nihr.ac.uk

General queries

Email: htafunding@nihr.ac.uk

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 HTA 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. Please note that this scheme is not open to HTA commissioned calls.

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 htacet@nihr.ac.uk. 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 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.

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