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NIHR launches call to reduce compound pressures on NHS and social care

Published: 22 February 2023

The NIHR has today underlined its commitment to support the needs of the NHS and social care system by launching a major new unified call for research on compound pressures.

Compound pressures are an increasingly complex set of challenges facing health and social care. They impact on patients, service users, carers and the health and care workforce.

They include seasonal demands, such as additional healthcare needs in winter and during extreme heat waves. Major occurrences like epidemics and pandemics and increases in the cost of living further amplify these pressures.

To encourage research that assists our ability to minimise these pressures in the future, the NIHR is now calling for researchers to submit research proposals that will develop practical solutions. The aim is to deliver improved outcomes for everyone accessing health and care services, and to reduce pressures on staff and resources.

The new cross-programme ‘themed call’ for research is the next phase in our continuing commitment to delivering research that makes real-time contributions to issues of public importance.

Research applications addressing the following are being encouraged for the new call:

  • How can the health and care system most effectively work together to plan for, respond to and recover from compound pressures?
  • How can we best protect vulnerable people’s health and reduce avoidable hospital admissions?
  • How can we effectively diagnose and treat illness which causes excess burden in winter, during extreme heat, or during infections likely to lead to pandemics?
  • What structure and support for routine services is needed to enable them to continue during times of increased pressure?
  • How can we reduce unnecessary hospital stay, promote smart discharge and reduce staff burden?

Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR CEO, said:

“Compound pressures stretch the health and care system in ways that are often difficult to predict and even harder to handle.

“Good research can produce exactly the sort of innovative, evidence-led solutions that will ease the burden on the system and enable those who plan, commission and deliver services to do so in intelligent and sustainable ways. This should help us to provide better care for patients and the public, and improve health outcomes for them. For example, we would like to better understand how we can avoid an unnecessary hospital admission for someone with multiple long-term conditions during winter.

“We host one of the world’s leading health and care research sectors, and we encourage our scientists, researchers, clinicians and public contributors to contribute their expertise and collaborate on this issue of national importance.”

Part of a wider effort

Today’s themed call follows our recent announcement of 16 new rapid research projects co-funded with HDR-UK exploring the easing NHS winter pressures. The new studies cover a range of data-driven approaches to identify pressures in the healthcare system. One uses hospital data to speed up patient flow through and out of emergency departments.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has identified reducing compound pressures as an Area of Research Interest (ARI).

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