Help develop research relevant to older people

Helen Roberts is Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Southampton and the national lead for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Comprehensive Research Network Ageing Speciality Research Group.

logoThe National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is now 10 years old! During the last decade it has contributed significantly to the health and wealth of the nation and is now the most comprehensive research system in the world. The Ageing Speciality Research Group is part of the Comprehensive Research Network funded by NIHR and has a remit to increase participation in research into ageing within the NHS. This means encouraging more clinical staff and older people to take part in more studies. The Ageing Speciality Group has representatives from each of the fifteen local research networks in England and from the networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as lay members to help provide the perspectives of service users and the general public. The local representatives come from a range of disciplines and are working hard to increase participation in research within their region.

Taking part in NIHR research can range from simply being aware of local studies and helping identify potential participants in clinics or on the wards to a member of the research team, to leading the collection of data and running of a study in your hospital or clinical area of practice as one centre in a multi-centre study, all the way to working with colleagues to write a grant proposal and lead a study.

However, we need more studies! This is where you come in…

The NIHR regularly puts out requests for research bids in particular areas – ‘themed calls ‘- and currently there are two that are highly relevant to older people. These calls are for ‘applied research in dementia’ and ‘multi-morbidity in older people’ defined as the co-occurrence of two or more chronic conditions in one person). In partnership with the British Geriatrics Society and Age UK we aim to generate applications to both of these calls by establishing writing groups. We invite readers who are interested in research to join us at our first meeting on 6th July at the Age UK headquarters in Tavistock Square, London from 2-5pm. Both experienced and novice researchers will be equally welcome. We will facilitate the development and exchange of ideas and the groups will work to develop applications generating new multi-disciplinary collaborations. Subsequent meetings can be via teleconference and email as well as face-face so that travel times do not create a barrier to participation.

The programmes responding to these themed calls include

  • Research for Patient Benefit: funds studies with patient benefit within 5 years, its main purpose is to realise, through evidence, the huge potential for improving, expanding and strengthening the way that healthcare is delivered for patients, the public and the NHS.
  • Invention for Innovation (i4i): a translational funding scheme to advance healthcare technologies and interventions for increased patient benefit in areas of existing or emerging clinical need.
  • Programme Grants for Applied Research: aims to produce independent research findings that will have practical application for the benefit of patients and the NHS in the relatively near future. Programme Development Grants are a complementary scheme to allow investigators to undertake preparatory research that will position them to submit a competitive Programme Grant application.
  • Public Health Research: funds research that evaluates public health interventions, providing new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. The scope is multidisciplinary and broad, covering a range of public health interventions.
  • Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation: bridges the gap between preclinical studies and evidence of clinical efficacy. The aim is to secure the progress of new technologies and interventions through their early clinical trials and onto larger, later clinical trials.
  • Health Service and Delivery Research: funds research to produce rigorous and relevant evidence on the quality, accessibility and organisation of health services, including costs and outcomes. This includes evaluations of how the NHS might improve delivery of services.
  • Health Technology Assessment: funds and delivers research information about the effectiveness, costs and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests for those who plan, provide and receive care in the NHS. The term ‘health technology’ covers a range of methods used to promote health, prevent and treat disease and improve rehabilitation and long term care including drugs, devices, procedures, settings of care and screening.

How to get involved:

Anyone who would like to get involved with these writing groups and research development can contact myself on for more details. Further information on the Ageing Speciality Group is available on the website  including the contact details of the local Ageing Speciality Research Group representatives.


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