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Vacancy details

Closing date: 05 November 2021

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Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme Director

The Director of Science, Research and Evidence for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is looking to select an exceptional person to be the Programme Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme, to succeed Professor Sue Ziebland who comes to the end of her tenure at the end of April 2022.

If you believe passionately in evidence-based health and social care and want to make the health and social care services and organisations work better for patients and service users, and you have a strong track record in health and care research, then this is the role for you. Leading this influential programme will allow you to work across the health and social care sectors and alongside key influencers in government.

As Programme Director, you will be accountable to the Director for Science, Research and Evidence for the DHSC. You will be accountable for the programme’s annual research budget of £21.5m, the overall scientific quality of its portfolio and for probity of decision-making. You will have oversight of the programme’s portfolio of funded studies with a total value of over £250m. Working in the NIHR, you will have the opportunity to improve the health, care and well-being of patients, service users, and their families and support networks.

The right candidate will have proven experience of health and social care services research as well as sound knowledge of research and development (R&D) in the field of health and social care. They will also have a good understanding of research methods, excellent communication and negotiating skills.

The total time commitment to the NIHR RfPB programme is, on average, two to two and a half days per week, to cover attendance at meetings, approval of contracting new research, and undertaking a strategic role within the RfPB programme and wider NIHR. The contract will initially be for three years with the potential to extend for a further two years upon review. The Department of Health and Social Care will reimburse the successful applicant’s employing institution for their time commitment.

At NIHR our people are our success. We aim to attract a diverse community from a broad range of cultures, ethnicities, and beliefs. We want to unite under our shared vision, best research for best health, by attracting a diverse community of stakeholders. We welcome applications from under-represented groups.

We strive to host inclusive and accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. We will do everything we can to meet individual committee member’s needs.


The NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme funds health, public health and social care research covering a wide range of health and care service challenges.  The aim of the programme is to fund topics and research methodologies that increase the effectiveness of NHS and social care services, provide value for money and benefit patients and care users. RfPB also runs a £3m annual competition specifically for social care research proposals - Research for Social Care (RfSC).

The RfPB programme and RfSC call support research that is concerned with the day-to-day practice of health and care services. Research proposals should have a clear trajectory towards benefiting the health or wellbeing of patients and users of the NHS and social care services.

RfPB is a national programme that funds research on a regional level through eight Regional Advisory Committees. Each region has a local committee chair and members, and patient or public members.  RfPB operates three researcher-led funding rounds per year.  RfSC is a national call with a single research-led call each year with applications assessed by a national social care committee comprising committee chair, academic, practitioners, care managers and service users.

The Programme’s director represents the RfPB Programme on the NIHR Strategy Board.

The application and post-award processes are managed by the RfPB team at the Central Commissioning Facility (CCF).   

Accountable to:          

DHSC Director of Science, Research & Evidence, via the DHSC Deputy Director, Research Programmes

Time Commitment:     

2 to 2.5 days per week.


Reimbursement of salary to employing organisation.

Payment for secretarial support will be available.


Initially 3 years with possible extension for a further 2 years after review.

Proposed Start date:   

01 March 2021 (with 2 month overlap period with the current post-holder).

Role Purpose 

Accountable to the Director of Science, Research and Evidence in the Department of Health and Social Care via the Deputy Director, Research Programmes, the Programme Director for the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme has oversight of the direction and overall quality of a national programme operating across England, and seeks to build confidence in its value in the research community, in the practice community, and among patients and the public and service users. The Programme Director works closely both with the NIHR Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) to ensure the smooth day to day running of research commissioning and with the eight RfPB and single RfSC committees and their chairs to ensure consistency in the operation of the Programme and to enhance its potential. 

Key Responsibilities

The RfPB Director has the following responsibilities:

  • Advise the NIHR on all matters related to the programme and area of interest
  • The promotion of the RfPB Programme (and the NIHR more generally) within the wider research and practitioner communities.
  • Ensuring that a broad range of disciplines (including those historically under-represented in RfPB awards) are involved in RfPB applications and awards.
  • Further development of the RfPB Programme, working collaboratively with other parts of the NIHR and taking into account the overall policy framework and budgetary limit.
  • Strategic oversight of the academic and scientific direction of the Programme in conjunction with the DHSC Director of Science, Research & Evidence, the DHSC Deputy Director, Research Programmes, and the CCF.
  • The scientific direction of the programme, the balance of its content, relevance, and responsiveness to the needs of the wider health and care system and DHSC, including the need to ensure that research funded by the Programme crosses primary, secondary and social care borders, where appropriate.
  • Strategic oversight, through the CCF and in conjunction with DHSC, for the procedures adopted for commissioning and managing projects, and ensuring delivery of results.
  • In conjunction with the CCF, the quality of the procedures and processes used to manage the RfPB Programme.

The Programme Director is expected to.

  • Represent the RfPB Programme on the NIHR Strategy Board and other key NIHR fora
  • Ensure the quality of the RfPB commissioning processes
  • Ensure best progress in funded projects, such as by responding to issues raised in progress and checkpoint reports, coordinating responses to requests for additional funds and/or time extensions, leading site visits, and monitoring delivery of final reports.

Person Specification

The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate:

  • Recognised Senior Leader in health and social care services research
  • Current knowledge of health and social care services research and research methods, including an appreciation of a wide range of research approaches
  • Knowledge of current developments in the field of health and social care services, and demonstrable reach into the health and social care evidence using community
  • Proven experience in chairing large committees
  • Strong commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of programme activity
  • Strong commitment to supporting Patient and Public Involvement as a core value throughout the programme
  • Knowledge of the NIHR portfolio
  • A strong sense of fairness and probity
  • Discretion in the handling of confidential information
  • Ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with a wide range of stakeholders
  • Confident negotiation skills
  • Capacity to dedicate time to the RfPB programme, including complying with programme timelines, attending meetings, and preparation work.
  • Capacity to work at NIHR level including, if required, represent the NIHR at national and international level
  • The ability to formulate strategic plans and implement them successfully.
  • Ability to respond to and implement NIHR and DHSC R&D policy.

How to apply

You may wish to discuss the role with the RfPB Assistant Director, Ben Morgan ( The outgoing Programme Director, Professor Sue Ziebland, can also be contacted for an informal discussion of the role; email:

Please submit a full CV and supporting letter by 05 November 2021. Applications should be submitted by email to: and

Applications will be assessed by a shortlisting panel against the person specification set out for this role. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview; interviews will be held in central London if possible, otherwise via videoconferencing, in December