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01 August 2023

£25m NIHR funding to tackle health and social care issues

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) today awarded King’s £25m to tackle important long-standing and emerging health and social care issues.

NIHR policy unit

The award is part of an £100million funding boost to 20 new Policy Research Units (PRUs) across England, funded by the NIHR’s Policy Research Programme.

Professor Katherine Sleeman, from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, and Professor Ann McNeill, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, will establish new PRUs at King’s. Dr Johnny Downs, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, has been named a co-investigator of the Children and Families Policy Research Unit based at UCL.

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.

The units will focus on palliative and end of life care, mental health, addictions, child and family research and health and care workforce. Each unit will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers 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 Katherine Sleeman, who was awarded £3m to lead the PRU for palliative and end of life care, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded an NIHR Policy Research Unit for palliative and end of life care. Our Policy Research Unit will support policy makers to improve care, and reduce inequalities, for children and adults affected by life-limiting illnesses, and their families and carers. Too many people die without having received the care and support they need to live as well as possible until the end of life. We hope our Policy Research Unit will catalyse a step-change in care for those affected by dying, death and bereavement.”

Professor Ann McNeill, Co-Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit for Addictions said: “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 Jill Manthorpe CBE said: “It is a huge honour to be awarded the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce once more and in partnership with the Institute for Fiscal Studies. For over 20 years such funding has supported a talented team of researchers to provide high quality policy advice and research to government policy makers about the workforces that are so important to us all when in need of care, treatment and support. We anticipate there will be new research questions about professionals and services amid fundamental policy problems to address in the coming five years. The Workforce PRU looks forward to continued, fascinating engagement with the health and care sectors in addressing pressing concerns and to co-producing our work with diverse patients, service users and carers.”

Dr Johnny Downs, an NIHR Clinician Scientist at the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent lead, Centre for Translational Informatics, and part of the Child Mental Health and Neurodevelopmental Disorders theme at the NIHR Maudsley BRC, has been named as a co-investigator on the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit. He said: "It is a great privilege to join the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit at UCL which has such a wonderful track history in creating data resources, developing research methods and delivering high quality evidence that impacts policy and practice for children and families.

"Between 2024-2029, the policy research programme will be examining how public, primary and specialist physical and mental health interventions can best deliver effective health and social care for vulnerable children and families and reduce health disparities. The Unit has put together a great interdisciplinary team and I am delighted that its work has such a strong emphasis on engaging young people, their families, mental health clinicians and researchers. I’m really looking forward to getting started.”

Professor Alan Simpson from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care said: "We are incredibly proud to have been commissioned to undertake a second five-year programme of research that will inform national mental health policy. We are really pleased we have this opportunity to continue this important work, with some established colleagues plus new team members and collaborators.”

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Advisor DHSC and Chief Executive of NIHR, said: "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.

“We are funding Policy Research Units across a range of key areas of policy ranging from cancer screening to social care. Several new topics will expand the ability of the units to help address the major healthcare challenges that we are facing, including improving reproductive health, tackling addiction as well as dementia and neurodegeneration."

In this story

Katherine Sleeman

Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care, Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine

Alan Simpson

Professor of Mental Health Nursing

Ann McNeill

Professor of Tobacco Addiction

Jill Manthorpe

Professor Emerita of Social Work

Lucy Chappell

NIHR Research Professor in Obstetrics