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Health Services Research

We fund health services research projects through our funding programmes, and support training and career development for researchers in the specialty.

We deliver health services research funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry and non-commercial organisations such as charities. We support the set up and delivery of this research in the NHS and in public health and social care settings. Our research infrastructure also supports research funded by these partners, offering expertise, collaborations and facilities.

We also provide opportunities for patients, families and carers to influence and take part in health services research.


The NIHR supports patients and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in health and care settings across England, advancing knowledge and improving care.

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) includes 30 specialty groups, who coordinate and support the delivery of high quality research by therapy area. Some of this research is funded by the NIHR, but most of it is funded by non-commercial organisations, such as charities or universities, and the life sciences industry.

The CRN provides researchers with the practical support they need to make research happen. It supports the set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings through our Study Support Service, with tailored offers of support for:

Supporting health services research

We oversee research that deals with the development of health services ensuring the delivery of high quality studies so that people have the opportunity to know about, and participate in, good clinical research. As a result we support a wide range of research studies that focus on improving the quality, accessibility and organisation of health services.

We promote the successful delivery of research studies in the NHS and social care settings and help plan new studies that will address patients’ needs. We support a wide range of research, including:

  • Testing new ways of delivering high quality and safe care
  • Assessing how to better collect and use patient experience data
  • Exploring new ways of organising NHS and social care services to improve outcomes
  • Trying new ways to spread knowledge and evidence through health care services

Introducing innovations and new ways of working can be a challenge. The specialty leads have expertise in how the NHS is organised, as well as performance monitoring, and delivering high quality research to test whether new services are producing good outcomes for patients.

In 2019/20 we recruited 61,549 participants across 209 studies in Health Services Research, with 100 per cent of commercial contract studies and 96 per cent of non-commercial studies recruited to time and target.

The NIHR CRN Health Services Research Toolkit has been developed to bring together ideas, guidance and support in one place, to help the delivery of high quality health services research in the NHS and health and social care settings.

Who we are

Our experts in the CRN Specialty Group can advise on delivering your infection study in the NHS and in particular geographic regions.

Professor Peter Bower is the CRN National Specialty Lead for health services research. Read Professor Bower’s full biography.

Professor Peter Bower is supported by local specialty leads in each of the 15 NIHR Local Clinical Research Networks.

Our collaborators and stakeholders

We collaborate with a variety of groups supporting health services research, including Health Services Research UK (HSR UK). HSR UK is a self-supporting membership organisation dedicated to the promotion of health services research in policy and practice. They connect researchers with health service leaders, managers and clinicians to drive improvement and innovation in the NHS.


Our funding programmes fund high quality health services research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. We also provide career development funding awards for health services researchers - see the careers tab for more information.

Our funding programmes

We have two research funding programmes that specifically support health services research.

The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence to improve the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care services. This includes evaluations of how the NHS and social care might improve delivery of services.

The NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) programme supports high quality, appropriate and applicable research that aims to improve whole health systems and health services in low and middle income countries.

In addition, our commissioned research programmes often seek research proposals on topics in health services research. Some examples include community pharmacies and self-neglect in the community.

Most of our funding programmes also run funding calls open to research proposals on any topic (researcher-led calls), including proposals in health services research.

Got an idea for research in health services research? The NIHR Research Design Service can help you turn it into a funding application, offering advice on research design, research methods, identifying funding sources, and involving patients and the public.

Our research units

NIHR Policy Research Units (PRUs) undertake research to inform government and arms-length bodies making policy decisions about health and social care. The units create a critical mass of experts for research in priority areas for health and social care policy.

The following PRUs undertake health services research:

Our research schools

The NIHR School for Primary Care Research is a partnership between nine leading academic centres for primary care research in England. The school brings together academics and practitioners from across the country to collaborate on cutting edge, topical primary care studies that have an impact both at policy level and in general practices around the country.

The school has a research theme on organisation and delivery of care.

Our portfolio of health services research research

You can search and view all the health services research research we’ve funded on NIHR Funding and Awards.

In addition, a number of our research programmes publish comprehensive accounts of our health services research in the NIHR Journals Library.


The NIHR attracts, trains and supports the best researchers in health services research to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future.

Our investment in people sustains excellent research capacity and expertise throughout clinical and non-clinical academic career pathways and provides high quality learning and development opportunities for the delivery workforce in our infrastructure.

Funding research careers

The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development.

There is a wide range of NIHR training and career development awards available at different career stages, from pre-doctoral through to Research Professorships. These awards comprise both personal awards, which can be applied for directly with the NIHR, and institutional awards which should be applied for through the host institution.

The NIHR Incubator for Methodology was created in April 2020. The incubator works to increase research capacity in methodology by focusing on how to attract people to careers in methodology, sharing internship and training opportunities and working with funding bodies to develop new opportunities for those interested in methodological research.  

Supporting the research delivery workforce


The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the world-class NIHR infrastructure.

This national research infrastructure is available to use by UKRI, research charities and the life sciences industry as well as NIHR researchers.

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local populations and local health and care systems.

The following ARCs undertake health services research:

NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres

NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs) work to pull advances in basic research with potential relevance to patient safety into an applied research setting.

The following PSTRCs undertakes health services research:

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings. Find out more on the delivery tab.


The NIHR funds and supports world-class experts in health services research.

In addition, our experts in the NIHR Clinical Research Network (National Specialty Leads) can advise on delivering your health services research study in the NHS or in other health and social care settings.

National Specialty Lead

Professor Peter Bower is the National Specialty Lead for Health Services Research.

He has been conducting health services research in Manchester for over 20 years, with a focus on the management of depression, long-term conditions, and integrated care. He is part of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research, the NIHR Policy Research Unit for Older People and Frailty and the NIHR Applied Research Collaborative Greater Manchester. 

Director of the Health Services and Delivery Research programme

Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone is Programme Director and Chair of the Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme.

Professor Rycroft-Malone is Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster University. She is also Chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Implementation Strategy Group and an emeritus Senior Research Leader for Health and Care Research Wales.

Public Involvement

We engage with and involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of health services research.

Have your say in research

We involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in our national research funding and support activities, including in health services research.

The researchers we fund also involve patients in planning and delivering their health services research.

Involvement opportunities across the NIHR

Our Local Clinical Research Networks involve people in health services research taking place in your local area.

The Centre for Health Services Studies, which is the lead organisation of the NIHR Research Design Service South East, hosts the Opening Doors to Research Group which is made up of 20+ members of the public who are interested in health research.

Take part in health services research

Be Part of Research is an online service that lists opportunities to take part in health services research across the UK.

Related Specialties

Primary care

Public Health and Prevention


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