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Introduction to health and care research

At the NIHR, we receive funding from the government to support all areas of health and care research.

If you’re new to health and care research and you want to find out more, we offer a range of support and training to help you.

What is health and care research?

Health and care research focuses on exploring and enhancing different aspects of health and care. These include patient care, disease prevention, and overall health.

Health and care research aims to:

  • improve healthcare outcomes
  • enhance patient wellbeing
  • influence health and care policies

Health and care research helps develop evidence-based solutions to challenges in the health and care sector.

Free online course

Explore the world of health research and the role volunteers play in transforming treatments and improving health care. It’s a free 3 week course for those interested in:

  • taking part in health research or
  • discovering how to get involved in supporting health research

Find out more and register:

What is Health Research? on Future Learn website

Starting out in healthcare research? Free online courses

If you're starting out in your career in health and care research or want to find out more about clinical research, sign up to the courses below.

Starting out in Health and Social Care Research

Get step-by-step guidance on every stage of the research process to kickstart your career in health and social care research.

This course is designed for health and social care professionals in any field who are planning to get involved in research. It's free for NHS and NHS-affiliated staff.

Find out more and register:

Starting Out in Health and Social Care Research on Future Learn website

Improving Healthcare Through Clinical Research

Learn how medical treatments are discovered, tested and evaluated to improve healthcare for all. It’s a free 4-week course for:

students thinking of a career in healthcare or the life sciences industry

health and social care practitioners who want to find out how clinical research improves healthcare

Find out more and register:

Improving Healthcare through Clinical Research on Future Learn website

NIHR Learn

NIHR Learn is a free online learning platform that allows you to enrol on a variety of online and face-to-face training courses.

You can create an account if you’re directly employed by:

  • the NHS
  • a UK university
  • another publicly funded organisation that conducts or supports clinical research

Courses include Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and eLearning for Research.

First time users

Go to NIHR Learn and click on ‘Create account’.  You can register on NIHR Learn with your work email address.

NIHR Learn

eLearning for Research

eLearning for Research is a series of e-learning modules on NIHR Learn. It’s for those with little or no experience of research.

The modules cover topics that will help you engage with research and research opportunities with confidence.

What’s the difference between clinical health research, social care research and public health research?

In general terms:

  • clinical research is concerned with medical treatments
  • social care research focuses on the quality of care and support services
  • public health research addresses population-level health issues and disease prevention

While these fields are distinct, they often intersect and collaborate to promote overall well-being and public health.

To improve your basic understanding of key approaches and components in each area of research, read through the flashcards on Understanding the difference between Clinical Health Research, Social Care Research and Public Health Research on NIHR Learn. You will need to log in. 

Local learning and development

Find out about local training in your area through our Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs). There are 15 networks across England.

If you’re logged into NIHR Learn, look out for ‘Locally delivered learning’ to find local courses and learning events.

Want to learn more?

Engage with research 

Find plain language summaries of health and care research we have funded on NIHR Evidence

Health and care research courses and support 

Do you want to lead health and care research? Find out how we can support your career as a researcher.