Published: 17 August 2023
NIHR will spend an additional £30 million per year to increase research opportunities. It will include funding for a range of new and expanding programmes of activity. This will enable more healthcare professionals (HCPs) to include research in their careers.
This funding will help a wide range of HCPs across England, including:
- allied health professionals (AHPs)
- healthcare scientists
The support aims to help them develop as highly skilled researchers and research leaders.
There are complex healthcare challenges currently facing the health and care sector. This can be overcome with a multi-professional approach to research. Research-active roles can also increase job satisfaction. The extra funding aims to help enhance staff retention within the NHS. It also supports a key priority of the UK Clinical Resilience, Recovery and Growth (RRG) Programme to develop a sustainable and supported research workforce.
Professor Ruth Endacott, NIHR Director of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “It is crucial that more healthcare professionals develop their academic skills and build careers that balance their clinical work with conducting research.
“Undertaking research has been a really exciting and satisfying aspect of my career so I’m really pleased that we’re able to offer more opportunities to healthcare professionals, and ultimately deliver better care for our patients and the public.”
Current numbers are low
Registered HCPs represent the largest single workforce in the NHS. But the proportion that facilitates, delivers or leads research remains low. In 2017 clinical academics represented 4.6% of NHS medical consultants. This is less than 0.1% of the nursing, midwifery and allied health professions (AHPs).
NIHR and NHS England are working in partnership to overcome the barriers to research. The collaboration is focused on increasing the awareness of research careers at early career stages. It also includes providing a clear framework for post-doctoral clinical or practitioner academics.
Increased investment to strengthen leadership and visibility
The NIHR currently provides initiatives to support HCPs to develop research careers. The additional £30 million a year will:
- strengthen opportunities available
- expand existing schemes
- introduce new initiatives
NHS England remains a critical delivery partner to ensure these measures are implemented.
Some of these initiatives include:
- more undergraduates able to access NIHR’s new national engagement programme, INSIGHT. It will expand to more than 300 places a year to attract students into research careers
- early career researchers will have access to more internship opportunities and bursaries. An existing pre-doctoral fellowship will expand. It will accommodate wider clinical professions working in primary care. Two existing schemes will expand, providing opportunities to gain new skills. They will also offer support when developing applications for further funding
- a new fellowship, New Generation Senior Clinical and Practitioner Research Award, will prioritise HCPs at a post-doctoral level. It will provide flexible funding to balance clinical and research commitments over 5 years
- a new Clinical Research Leaders Programme for AHPs will be created. It will tackle the visibility of AHP leadership. It will also develop research leaders to influence change across organisations. This will be supported by a new NIHR Associate Director for Allied Health Professions. These two initiatives mirror successful support already established for nurses and midwives
- new NIHR Regional Research Leadership Offices will be established. They will promote and coordinate opportunities for HCPs at a regional level
Professor Anne-Maree Keenan OBE, Associate Dean for NIHR Academy, said: “Since its establishment in 2006, the NIHR has been pivotal in supporting HCPs build research-active careers. This increased investment will create a highly expanded community of research HCPs to sit alongside the already established medical academic communities, to effectively work together to deliver higher quality research.”
Dr Joanne Cooper, Head of Nursing Research (Research Transformation), NHS England, said: “We know patients in research-active health and care settings have better outcomes and receive better care, which is why it’s so important that more nurses, midwives and other health care professionals have opportunities to lead, deliver and participate in research.
"We are pleased to have worked with the NIHR team on developing these opportunities and welcome their significant contribution to the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Chief Midwifery Officer for England’s Strategic Plans for Research.”