Tens of millions of pounds in extra funding has been pledged to get more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals into research.
The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) says it will spend £30m extra per year to “boost” the opportunities available to healthcare professionals to incorporate research activity into their clinical roles.
“The NIHR has made my research study possible”
According to NIHR, the most recent headcount from 2017 showed that less than 0.1% of the nursing, midwifery and allied health professional workforce were involved with research; this figure rose to 4.6% for medical consultants.
Part of the extra £30m will go towards overcoming the “barriers” which prevent healthcare professionals, in particular nursing staff, from becoming involved in research.
Dr Joanne Cooper, head of nursing research (research transformation) at NHS England, which is partnering with NIHR on the scheme, said it was important more nursing staff were able to participate in research while continuing to practise clinically.
Dr Cooper said: “We know patients in research-active health and care settings have better outcomes and receive better care, which is why it’s so important that more nurses, midwives and other health care professionals have opportunities to lead, deliver and participate in research.
“We are pleased to have worked with the NIHR team on developing these opportunities and welcome their significant contribution to the chief nursing officer for England and chief midwifery officer for England’s strategic plans for research.”
In practice, the NIHR’s additional funding pledge will mean more spaces on courses which allow nursing and other healthcare staff to become clinical academics, splitting their time between clinical and academic or researching work.
NIHR said the money will also mean more bursaries and internships for early-career healthcare staff, as well as more spaces on a pre-doctoral fellowship programme. This expansion will mean more people in primary care will be eligible.
As well as improving patient outcomes, NIHR said research roles alongside clinical work can increase job satisfaction for staff and improve retention.
Dr Polly Livermore, a paediatric nurse who completed an NIHR-funded PHD, said she was “hugely supportive” of the work the institute does.
Dr Livermore’s PhD was funded by NIHR’s clinical doctoral research fellowship, which she finished before completing an NIHR development and skills enhancement award.
“We know patients in research-active health and care settings have better outcomes and receive better care”
These programmes led to her being awarded an advanced clinical practitioner fellowship in 2023, and she continues to work on an investigation into AI-driven chatbots to support paediatric rheumatology patients at Great Ormand Street Hospital.
“The NIHR has made my research study possible,” she added.
Funding for local research leadership offices will also be distributed among the additional £30m, in order to “promote and coordinate” opportunities for healthcare professionals regionally.
The institute is also setting up a new post-doctoral fellowship for senior healthcare professionals, including nurses, to allow them to balance clinical and research work over five years.
Professor Anne-Maree Keenan, associate dean for NIHR Academy, said the additional money would expand the “community of research healthcare professionals”.
“Since its establishment in 2006, the NIHR has been pivotal in supporting [healthcare professionals to] build research-active careers,” Dr Keenan said.
“This increased investment will create a highly expanded community of research [healthcare professionals] to sit alongside the already established medical academic communities, to effectively work together to deliver higher quality research.”