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

NIHR 2018/19 Themed Call in ‘Improving the outcomes of health and social care for frail people and their carers’ - Proposals are invited for health and social care research that slows or prevents further declines in health, or supports/promotes healthy ageing, independence, and wellbeing. Research should take into account the wider health and social care needs of the individual and their family or other carers. This themed call will apply to Competitions 38 and 39.


NIHR 2018/19 Themed Call in ‘The management of chronic pain’ - Proposals are invited that address the management of chronic pain. A wide range of different interventions may be used in the management of chronic pain, including pharmacological, psychological, physical, surgical and other forms of therapy. This themed call will apply to Competitions 38 and 39.

For further details, please see note that RfPB’s researcher led calls are open to all relevant research areas, and do not just include this themed call. If you are responding to the themed call, please indicate this in the application form in Section 6, Question 2 ‘Why is this research important in terms of improving the health and/or wellbeing of the public and/or to patients and health and care services?’.


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, methods development 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 39 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 27 March 2019 October 2019
Submission deadline 24 July 2019 November 2019
Submission outcome October 2019 March 2020


 Competition 38 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 28 November 2018 Mid June 2019
Submission deadline 20 March 2019 Late July 2019
Submission outcome Mid June 2019 Late November 2019


 Competition 37 Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 25 July 2018 Late February 2019
Submission deadline 21 November 2018 Late March 2019
Submission outcome Late February 2019 Late July 2019



 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


Contact us

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