Research for Patient Benefit

Inspired by patients and practice, this scheme generates research evidence to improve, expand and strengthen the way that healthcare is delivered for patients, the public and the NHS.

RfPB is a national, researcher-led programme, with over 800 applied research projects in health services and social care that have already been funded across the country through our Regional Advisory Panels.

Latest news

New Standard Application Form - In line with NIHR's launch of a new streamlined application process, from Competition 34 onwards, RfPB will be using NIHR's revised two stage forms. In view of these changes, applicants are encouraged to read the new guidance for Competition 34 under 'Useful documents' (right hand side).

NIHR 2017 Highlight Notice in ‘Complex Health and Care Needs in Older People’ - This highlight notice indicates the continuing interest of NIHR in receiving research proposals in this area, and particularly those addressing Frailty; Transitions in care, service delivery and models of care; Medicines management/polypharmacy; Promoting healthy ageing/preventing ill health; and Patient-centred decision making. This highlight notice will apply to Competition 34.

For further details, please see  Please note that RfPB’s researcher led calls are open to all relevant research areas, and do not just include this highlight notice. If you are responding to the highlight notice, please indicate this in the application form in Section 6, Question 1 ‘What is the problem being addressed?’


Aims and Scope

We support research that is concerned with the day-to-day practice of health service staff, and which has the potential to have an impact on the health or wellbeing of patients and users of the NHS (see study example below). A clear trajectory to patient benefit is essential.

We do not specify topics for research, and encourage proposals for projects which address a wide range of health service issues and challenges. The RfPB programme will support quantitative or qualitative research which aims to:

  • Study the provision and use of NHS services
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of interventions
  • Examine the resource utilisation of alternative means for healthcare delivery
  • Formally scrutinise innovations and developments
  • Consider the feasibility of research requiring major award applications to other funders
  • Develop and refine new interventions, scales or outcome measures
  • Explore the potential for improving patient health and wellbeing through needs assessments, evidence synthesis, systematic reviews and exploratory studies

The programme will not fund:

  • Laboratory-based research or basic science research, including research based on animal models
  • Infrastructure, such as setting up or maintaining research units
  • Applications which are solely service developments, unless they have wider generalisability. Note: the costs of any new service would not be funded by RfPB
  • Applications which are solely audits or surveys (although these elements may be part of an integrated research study)
  • Applications which are primarily concerned with setting priorities for future directions of research


The funding for individual projects is up to £350,000 for up to 36 months. Feasibility studies are expected to cost less than £250,000 and proposals that will generate results that might be useful for more downstream investigations are expected to cost less than £150,000. For more information, please see our supplemental guidance notes on Funding limits, Tier 3 funding, and Applying for feasibility studies.


Funding Process and Selection Criteria

Applications will be considered by the appropriate RfPB Regional Advisory Panel. They cannot be considered by more than one Panel, during any one competition. Panels meet three times per year. For an overview of the funding process, please see our process map.

The criteria used by the Regional Advisory Panels at both application stages will be:

  • Quality of the research proposed
  • Significance and potential benefit to the NHS and its patients
  • Value for money provided by the application


Competition dates

Competition 35 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 6 December 2017 Mid June 2018
Submission deadline 21 March 2018 Late July 2018
Submission outcome Mid June 2018 Late November 2018


 Competition 34 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 2 August 2017 Late February 2018
Submission deadline 22 November 2017 Late March 2018
Submission outcome Late February 2018 Late July 2018


 Competition 33 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 29 March 2017 Late October 2017
Submission deadline 19 July 2017 Late November 2017
Submission outcome Late October 2017 Late March 2018



 All researchers in the NHS in England can apply. Applications are made through an NHS body* or other provider of NHS services in England, which will act as the contracting organisation, meaning that it will be the recipient of the funds, and will ultimately be responsible for the delivery of the research. The sponsor of the research, or the organisation directly responsible for securing the arrangements to initiate, manage and finance a study, can be either the contracting institution or a collaborating partner, as long as that organisation is capable of fulfilling the role of a research sponsor as set out in the Research Governance Framework for Health & Care.

Joint applications with academic partners are encouraged. Applications with appropriate collaborations in social care and third sector providers of health and social care are also encouraged. Partner organisations from outside of England may be included, provided a strong case is made that it is best placed to provide the necessary expertise to carry out the planned research.

 The RfPB Programme particularly encourages new investigators to apply for funding. A relatively new investigator can be the Lead Applicant/Principal Investigator if s/he is supported by a strong team of experienced researchers, with appropriate commitment to the overall research project.

 *Under schedule 4 paragraph 138 (2) (c) of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, “NHS body” means: (a) the Board; (b) a Clinical Commissioning Group; (c) a Special Health Authority; (d) an NHS trust; and (e) an NHS Foundation Trust.


Study example

An example of our funding is the REVERT* study, led by Andrew Appelboam at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, to investigate whether a modification to posture in the Valsalva manoeuvre would improve its performance in treating patients in the emergency department with an abnormally fast heart rate. This was the first randomised controlled trial to assess the effect of modifying posture in the technique and was undertaken across 10 NHS emergency departments involving more than 400 patients.

The findings, published in The Lancet (see film below), showed that the modification was three times more effective at bringing heart rhythm back to normal than performing the whole manoeuvre in the usual semi-reclining position.

Patients, involved throughout the study, also benefit through the reduced need for more interventional treatments, such as intravenous adenosine, which may have unpleasant side effects. Read more in the NIHR Signal A new, simple postural manoeuvre can stop an abnormally fast heart rate (4 November 2015).

*Randomised Evaluation of modified Valsalva Effectiveness in Re-entrant Tachycardias (REVERT) study