Is the UK’s National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Programme a model for health services research funding that could be applied in Australia?

Better support for health services research and health economics research in Australia is a key objective of both HSRAANZ and AHES.  On 6 November the Presidents of the HSRAANZ and AHES accompanied Professor Judith Smith, Director of the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, UK and Vice-Chair, National Institute of Health Research Panel for commissioned Health Services and Delivery Research, to a special round table event at the Department of Health in Canberra.   The event considered insights from the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&RD) programme that funds a mix of commissioned and researcher led research into the quality, access, and organisation of health and care services.

Present were representatives of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Departmental medical advisers, and a mix of executive staff.

Health Services and Delivery Research: bridging the gap between research, policy and practice

The discussion

Professor Judith Smith shared experience and insights from the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) HS&DR programme that funds research into the quality, access, and organisation of health and care services.  The Health Services and Delivery Research Programme was established in 2012 and evolved from two prior NIHR programmes (one focused on service delivery, and the other on health services research).

The programme has four key sets of evidence users: policy decision-makers locally and nationally across health and care; members of the public; patients; and NHS clinicians and managers.  It typically has over 200 live research projects that are undertaken using many and mixed research methods, and its outputs are disseminated in a wide range of formats, with the desire always to maximise reach and impact.  The NIHR Dissemination Centre plays a vital role in the synthesis and sharing of findings from HS&RD and other NIHR research Programmes.


Key issues arising from discussion included:

      • The balance between commissioned research and investigator-driven research.
      • How priorities are set for commissioned research, and who should be involved.
      • The way in which resources for research are allocated across programmes and priorities.
      • How to balance longer term and more rapid/emergent issues through commissioned research.
      • The value of synthesis, and how this might be commissioned to respond to identified research priorities.
      • Approaches to dissemination of commissioned research findings, and links between this and implementation.
      • The application process for tendered research. The NIHR HS&RD uses a two-stage process for assessing applications for its commissioned work, focussing at first stage primarily on the relevance of outline proposals to the commissioning brief, and engagement with the public and patients. At second (full proposal) stage, the science of the proposal is assessed in much more depth.
      • The nature of public and patient involvement (PPI) in setting priorities for HSDR, assessing proposals, and being part of research studies and their dissemination.
      • The balance of PPI and other stakeholder involvement such as health professionals and managers and how to demonstrate service engagement and pathways to implementation.
      • The impact on the research community of having commissioned calls for research, and how researchers and universities might need to work and respond differently.




Background papers

Presentation Slides


Overview of the HSDR:

The NIHR Dissemination Centre’s website:

Lamont Tara, Barber Nicholas, Pury John de, Fulop Naomi, Garfield-Birkbeck Stephanie, Lilford Richard et al. New approaches to evaluating complex health and care systems BMJ 2016; 352 :i154

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Christopher J. M. Whitty. What makes an academic paper useful for health policy? BMC Medicine 2015, 13:301  doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0544-8

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