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Embedding a research culture

We work with organisations such as the Care Quality Commission, NHS England & NHS Improvement and the Health Research Authority to improve the environment for health and care research in England. We also work with other national partners to recognise efforts to make research a core activity in the NHS, public health and social care.

Clinical research is everyone's future

Health and care professionals undertake a range of roles in clinical research. Whether they're leading research in their field of interest, a co-applicant or principal investigator for studies, advising sponsors or sites about the shape and feasibility of their research or taking a leading and essential role in recruitment and delivery of studies - every role and every professional is important.

Health and care professionals have a pivotal role to play in promoting participation in clinical trials to patients and the public.


Encouraging a research-positive culture in health and care organisations is important to give patients wider access to clinical research and improve patient care and treatment options.

Evidence show clinically research active hospitals have better patient care outcomes.

Patients admitted to more research‐active hospitals have more confidence in staff and are better informed about their condition and medication: Results from a retrospective cross‐sectional study

The correlation between National Health Service trusts' clinical trial activity and both mortality rates and care quality commission ratings: a retrospective cross-sectional study

Research activity and the association with mortality

High hospital research participation and improved colorectal cancer survival outcomes: a population-based study

Does the engagement of clinicians and organisations in research improve healthcare performance: a three-stage review

Incorporating research into CQC assessments of patient care

NHS trusts in England are being asked to look more closely at research as a priority for improving patient care, as a result of new questions being included in the Care Quality Commission (CQC) well-led framework.

A partnership between the NIHR, the Health Research Authority and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, together with Research and Development Leaders in the NHS (known as UKRD) and patients, have collaborated with CQC on a project to incorporate research into their regulatory assessments of quality patient care.

In September 2018 the CQC signed off the integration of clinical research into its well-led framework for NHS trusts. This is the first time a major NHS regulator has formally recognised clinical research activity in the NHS as a key component of best patient care. They did this in recognition of the growing body of data which indicates that research-active hospitals have better patient outcomes.

Inclusion of these research questions in the well-led framework by the CQC, has been an important trigger in supporting other healthcare organisations achieve their goals towards promoting more research activity. One example of this, is The Royal College of Physicians, calling for every clinician working in the NHS to become research active.

Read the Royal College of Physicians statement.

Additionally, for the first time, a question asking if research opportunities were offered to patients as part of their care has been included in the CQC Annual Survey of Inpatient Experience. This survey is sent to around 185,000 patients who have been cared for at approximately 148 NHS trusts in England. The results of this survey are expected to be announced in Summer 2019.


What does the expansion of the CQC well-led framework mean for patients?

The CQC well-led framework looks at leadership, governance, organisational vision and strategy, culture and levels of engagement in NHS trust organisations. Whilst the well-led framework is familiar to many in the NHS, the new research-related questions aim to determine how well an NHS trust integrates research into its corporate strategy, planning and how well research opportunities are offered to patients. In a nutshell, everyone thinking research as part of good quality patient care.

Resources and support

To help you with planning for your CQC inspection in relation to the research questions in section W8 of the well-led framework, view this presentation on well-led research trusts.

  • This Royal College of Physicians article, written by Dr William van’t Hoff, NIHR and Dr Edwin Selvaratnam, CQC in the member magazine, Commentary, provides an insightful look how research active organisations develop clinicians and improve patient care.

For more information on the work please contact Roger Steel on 0113 343 0441

Supporting NHS research

In 2017, NHS England and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) published a joint statement committing to 12 actions to support and apply research in the NHS. Three of these actions relate to how the NIHR works with the NHS both simplifying research processes and research priorities. 

Simplifying NHS research processes

We’ve been working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Health Research Authority and others to:

Articulating the NHS’s own research priorities better

NHS England’s Research Needs Assessment 2018 summarises the information and areas for research identified by NHS England, to provide an early signal of potential research requirements across the wider clinical portfolio. We are now developing a number of funding calls to commission research in the areas identified by the needs assessment.

Another relates to setting out local NHS research and innovation priorities of Academic Health Science Networks and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships.

The consultation we jointly commissioned with the NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) and the Academic Health Science Network identified the need for innovation and research around:

  • Developing the current and future workforce
  • Delivering mental health services and providing care for patients with mental health issues
  • Integrating services to provide for patients with complex needs such as – multimorbidities, frailty, and for older people and socially isolated people or communities

The findings will be used to facilitate further discussions involving patients and the public and the research community to refine the priorities and better understand the local context and challenges.

Success stories

Our success stories showcase examples of best practice initiatives for engaging staff in NHS care settings to develop a research active culture. You will find a selection of success stories on this page.

The full range of success stories can be found on the new Frontline (research) Staff Learning Community on our NIHR Learn platform. This can be accessed simply by registering using either an NHS related or NIHR email address. It gives you access to a wider range of examples and helpful tools to get you started.

Generating a research culture

How can you get others involved? 

Staff at Nottingham University Hospitals describe how they encourage clinical staff to become research aware and active.


Kingston Hospital: From a good hospital to a hospital that's good at research 

In 2014, Kingston was rated as a CHKS, a leading provider of healthcare intelligence and quality improvement services, rated it a top 40 hospital and top amongst the five most efficient, but rated ‘worst performing research trust' out of 12 in the South London Clinical Research Network (CRN). This was largely due to a lack of infrastructure, and a hospital and staff that were not prepared for research. Since 2014, Kingston Hospital has implemented reforms and initiatives to overcome many of these barriers.

A midwife engagement initiative

Research midwives in Newcastle identified that, despite their best efforts, out of hours recruitment to studies was not optimal. Therefore, over a period of 12 months, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust ensured that a research midwife was present for the delivery suite handovers at the beginning and end of each day. This initiative increased the confidence of staff, and increased recruitment to studies.

Research for patient benefit

How does research help patients? 

Staff at Nottingham University Hospitals explain why research is so important to patient care.


The impact of research on patients within the Major Trauma Network 

Matt Costa explains how embedding research within the Major Trauma Network has had a significant positive impact on patient outcomes


Integrating research into clinical care

How does research integrate with clinical work?

Staff at Nottingham University Hospitals describe some of the ways they integrate research into clinical care.


Research Champions Initiative in a children's research unit 

In early 2015, the children’s research team at the Great North Children’s Hospital identified that staff working within busy clinical areas often struggled to engage with research. An initiative was developed to identify research ‘champions’ in each of the clinical areas to help to embed research within the organisation at all levels.

Expanding awareness of recruitment to research

Helen Hanson, Senior Research Nurse at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, explains how an initiative to make clinicians more aware of recruitment to research worked, and how it succeeded.


Research Envoys: NHS clinical staff trained to spread the research message

This case study describes an exciting pilot internship programme to create ‘research envoys’ to get involved in research and promote research at all levels within their clinical areas and organisations as a whole. 

Becoming a research active clinician

Integrating research into routine nursing care

Mark Hammonds, Senior Charge Nurse, Coronary Care Unit at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, explains how and why he got involved in research and how he encouraged colleagues to integrate research within their clinical roles.



Why did you first decide to get involved in research?

Staff at Nottingham University Hospitals describe how they became research active