National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is a United Kingdom government agency which funds research into health and care, and is the largest national clinical research funder in Europe. The NIHR was established in 2006 under the government's Best Research for Best Health strategy, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care.
In 2018 it was found that NHS trusts with increased NIHR-adopted clinical trial activity are associated with reduced mortality levels.
The NIHR was created in April 2006 under the government’s health research strategy, Best Research for Best Health. NIHR's mission is "improving the health and wealth of the nation through research". This strategy outlined the direction that NHS research and development should take in order "to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research". NIHR has identified nine strategic goals:
- Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
- Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
- Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research
- Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges
- Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system
- Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries
- Programmes that award research funding to equitable partnerships between groups of researchers or groups of research institutions in LMICs and the UK.
- Partnerships with other global health research organisations, supporting existing, high quality funding schemes and co-creating new initiatives to respond to areas of need.
- Investment in People, funding the career development of researchers at all career stages and supporting research managers and support staff in LMICs and the UK.
In June 2021 NIHR published Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter. This document outlined the operational priorities for NIHR and built on the 2006 Best Research for Best Health strategy.
The NIHR provides support and facilities to the NHS for delivery of research, by funding a range of infrastructure, including:
- Clinical Research Network (CRN): supports patients, the public and health and care organisations to participate in high-quality research. The CRN comprises 15 Local Clinical Research Networks across England.
- Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure: established and manages the Translational Research Collaborations, and provides access to the clinical research infrastructure throughout England.
- Biomedical Research Centres: conducts and supports translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients.
- Patient Safety Translational Research Centres: conducts and supports research to investigate ways to improve the safety, quality and effectiveness of the services that the NHS provides to its patients.
- The Applied Research Collaborations: the 15 ARCs in England undertake research on a number of areas of need highlighted by the NIHR Futures of Health report, including: the challenges of an ageing society; multimorbidity; and the increasing demands placed on our health and care system.
Delivery of NIHR responsibilities is mainly managed by a number of Coordinating Centres contracted to the Department of Health and Social Care:
- The NIHR Academy in Leeds supports NIHR objectives by providing career development and support opportunities for researchers.
- Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) and NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) support NIHR objectives to commission, fund and disseminate research to improve patient care.
- Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre (CRNCC) has offices in Leeds, London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Preston and support NIHR objectives to provide efficient and effective support for the initiation and delivery of funded research in the NHS. The CRNCC oversees the Local Clinical Research Networks who support clinical research infrastructure throughout England, which is working towards increased access for patients to new and better treatments in the NHS and social care.
- INVOLVE is a national advisory group that supports greater public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research.
- The NIHR Dissemination Centre supports NIHR objectives for dissemination of high quality evidence.
- Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) in London supports NIHR objectives to help potential partners, including industry and charities, to navigate the NIHR's centres, facilities and expertise to work in collaboration. It established and manages the Translational Research Collaborations.
Responsibility for the NIHR lies with the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health. Professor Sally Davies (Dame Sally from 2009) held this post from 2004 to 2016, and led the founding of the NIHR in 2006.
The current holder of the post is Lucy Chappell, Professor of Obstetrics at King's College London. She succeeded Professor Chris Whitty (who has also been Chief Medical Officer for England since 2019) in August 2021.
The NIHR's commissioned research programmes offer a focused source of funding for researchers within the health system in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also participate in some of these programmes. The programmes give researchers from England, who work in all areas of healthcare, access to funding to undertake clinical and applied health and social care research which is focused on priority areas and topics. NIHR have an Open Access policy and were one of the original funders of Europe PubMed Central.
The NIHR programmes are:[when?]
- Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation
- Health Services and Delivery Research
- Health Technology Assessment
- Invention for Innovation
- Policy Research
- Programme Development Grants
- Programme Grants for Applied Research
- Public Health Research
- Research for Patient Benefit
- Evidence Synthesis
The NIHR has established three national research schools: the School for Primary Care Research, the School for Social Care Research, and the School for Public Health Research. Each national school is a research collaboration between academic centres in England. The three schools aim to:
- Increase and develop the evidence base for practice in the primary care, adult social care, and public health sectors.
- Contribute to ongoing efforts to build research capacity in their respective sectors.
- Improve research awareness in their respective sectors.
- Create a ‘critical mass’ of research expertise and funding through coordinated and collaborative working across the country.
Career development and support
The NIHR Academy was launched in October 2018 to "future-proof the UK research workforce". Its launch was an output and recommendation of the strategic review of training which looked at the future training and support needs of researchers.
A wide range of NIHR training and career development awards are provided, from pre-doctoral level to research professorships. These are available to people from a variety of professional backgrounds. The awards are grouped into the following areas:
- NIHR Fellowship Programme
- NIHR Research Professorship
- HEE-NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Programme
- Integrated Academic Training (IAT)
- NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools
Global health research
The NIHR funds research mainly in the United Kingdom. In 2016, and in line with the UK Government's aid strategy of diffusing development assistance spending across government departments, the Department of Health and Social Care was allocated money for global health research for the direct benefit of patients and the public in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Using the research funding management experience of the NIHR, the Department was to support global health research units and groups comprising universities and research institutions from across the UK, working with LMIC research partners.
Achievements and recognition
- In 2016, NIHR commissioned the independent RAND Europe think tank and the Policy Institute at King's College London to collate and synthesise 100 examples of positive change arising from NIHR's support of health and care research in its first 10 years. The assessment found that the NIHR had "transformed research & development in and for the NHS and the patients it serves".
- In 2017, the NIHR was awarded one of the first 'Cochrane-REWARD prizes for reducing waste in research' for the Adding Value in Research Programme 
- In 2018, an article published in Public Health identified that NHS trusts with increased NIHR-adopted clinical trial activity are associated with reduced mortality levels.
- Medical Research Council
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
- "Professor Chris Whitty". GOV.UK. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
- "Best research for best health: a new national health research strategy". Department of Health and Social Care. 25 January 2006.
How the NHS in England will contribute to health research and development over the next 5 years
- "NIHR Annual Report 2015/16" (PDF). National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Davies, Sally; Whalley, Tom; Smye, Stephen; Cotterill, lisa; Whitty, Christopher (1 December 2016). "The NIHR at 10: transforming clinical research". Clinical Medicine. 16 (6): 501–502. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.16-6-501. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- "NIHR publishes Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter". NHS R&D Forum.
- "NIHR infrastructure". www.nihr.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "New £816 million investment in health research". Department of Health. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017. This content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
- "£17 million invested in NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres". National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 31 May 2017. This content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
- Collaborating in applied health research www.nihr.ac.uk, accessed 10 March 2021
- Future of Health: Findings from a survey of stakeholders on the future of health and healthcare in England www.rand.org, accessed 10 March 2021
- "Managing Centres". National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Local Clinical Research Networks local.nihr.ac.uk, accessed 10 March 2021
- "Professor Dame Sally Davies". GOV.UK. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
- "Professor Dame Sally Davies". Woman's Hour. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
- Wilcock, Damian (19 April 2021). "Professor Lucy Chappell appointed as Chief Scientific Adviser". King's College London.
- "New Chief Scientific Adviser and NIHR lead announced". www.nihr.ac.uk. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
- "Commissioned Research Programmes" (PDF). National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "NIHR open access policy". www.nihr.ac.uk. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- The SPCR internship programme broadens perspectives and increases diversity www.spcr.nihr.ac.uk, accessed 10 March 2021
- Improving the evidence base for adult social care in England www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk, accessed 10 March 2021
- "Schools for Primary Care, Social Care and Public Health Research" (PDF). National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 31 May 2017. This content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
- Strategic review of training
- "Professor David Jones". NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
- "Government launches £60 million call for global health research". Department of Health. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- "The National Institute for Health Research at 10 Years An impact synthesis: 100 Impact Case Studies". RAND Corporation. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "NIHR achievements". National Institute of Health Research. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
- "The National Institute of Health Research at Ten Years". RAND Corporation. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "Cochrane-REWARD prizes for reducing waste: 2017 winners". Cochrane. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
- "The correlation between National Health Service trusts' clinical trial activity and both mortality rates and care quality commission ratings: a retrospective cross-sectional study". Science Direct. 10 February 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2020.