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01 August 2023

£5.5m NIHR funding to shape effective addictions policy across UK

New NIHR Policy Research Unit will be co-led by King’s College London in collaboration with the University of Sheffield and the University of Glasgow.


The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded £5.5m to create a new Policy Research Unit (PRU) to investigate addictions and shape future UK policy. Professor Ann McNeill from Department of Addiction Sciences at IoPPN will take on the role of Co-Director of the new NIHR Policy Research Unit for Addictions, which will be a consortium led by King’s College London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Glasgow.

The award is part of a £100m funding boost to 20 new PRUs across England, funded by the NIHR’s Policy Research Programme to tackle important long-standing and emerging health and social care issues. Of this funding, King’s College London has received £19.5m for PRUs focussing on palliative and end of life care, addictions, mental health and health and care workforce

We are delighted to have this unique opportunity to help shape effective addictions policy in the coming years by working closely with both subject experts and experts by experience from a UK-wide consortium. We are particularly pleased that, as well as examining specific addictive products (tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs and gambling) and policies to prevent their harms, we will be able to look at the interactions between all of these for policymakers.

Professor Ann McNeill, Co-Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit for Addictions

PRUs bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from collaborating institutions to create a critical mass of leading experts with the ability to work dynamically with policy teams to address key research questions. The PRU researchers will respond to policy research needs and develop research programmes that provide evidence for current and emerging research priorities.  

Professor John Holmes from the University of Sheffield and Co-Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit for Addictions said: "The new Addictions Policy Research Unit will expand the University of Sheffield's influential work on alcohol policy to include tobacco, gambling and illicit drugs policy - and the links between these policy areas. We have been developing this wider research programme over recent years and are pleased to have the opportunity to do so. We will work closely with the Government to identify research priorities and support their decision-making."

PRUs, funded by NIHR’s Policy Research Programme, play a vital role in making sure the government and arm’s length bodies have the best possible information and evidence available when making policy decisions about health and social care.

Addiction represents an amorphous range of issues, but I’m proud to say that we have brought together a range of expertise that reflects the expansive nature of what we’re researching. Not only will we be shaping future policy that we hope will have a direct impact on people’s lives, but also training the next generation of addiction researchers.

Dr Leonie Brose, Reader in Addiction Education and Nicotine Research at King’s College London

Professor Heather Wardle from the University of Glasgow and Gambling Lead in the unit said, "We're delighted that gambling has been included in the new Addictions Policy Research Unit, raising the profile and esteem of gambling research and policy in an unprecedented way. Working with a talented team of researchers, we'll be able to look at commonalities and differences across addictive behaviours and products to support effective policy development.”

In addition to Professor McNeill, Professor Katherine Sleeman, from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care will also establish a new PRU at King’s. Professor Jill Manthorpe, Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, and Professor Alan Simpson from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, have also received continued funding for the next cycle.

In the NIHR, we have a range of ways to make sure that health and care research benefits patients and the public. The NIHR's new Policy Research Units are designed to provide strong evaluation of policy. This helps government and related organisations to be able to act on the latest evidence when making decisions about health and social care that could impact us all.

Professor Lucy Chappell Chief Scientific Advisor, DHSC Chief Executive of NIHR

In this story

Ann McNeill

Professor of Tobacco Addiction

Leonie Brose

Reader in Addiction Education and Nicotine Research