The National Institute of Health Research at Ten Years

Scientists working in a lab


The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funds and supports world-leading clinical and applied health and social care research, as well as research infrastructure in the NHS. Providing £1 billion of funding each year, NIHR aims to:

  • drive the faster translation of new treatments, technologies and diagnostics to improve outcomes for health and care services;
  • promote the wealth of the nation, including via inward investment from the health research community;
  • pull basic science discoveries through into tangible benefits for patients and the public; and
  • provide research evidence to support more effective and cost-effective NHS delivery.

To mark its tenth anniversary, the Department of Health commissioned the Policy Research in Science and Medicine (PRiSM) unit to consider the question: ‘What are the ways in which NIHR has benefited the health research landscape in the past ten years?’

The resulting report identifies and celebrates 100 examples of positive change resulting from NIHR’s support of research. A synthesis of 100 case studies is provided, which highlights the benefits and wider impacts of research, capacity building, and other activities undertaken with NIHR’s support since its creation in 2006. The report concludes with a reflection of how the NIHR has transformed R&D in and for the NHS and wider health service, and the people they serve.

The report draws together – for the first time – examples of the breadth of NIHR’s impacts in a single resource. It will be of interest to healthcare professionals involved in research, academics working in health and social care, and members of the public wishing to understand the value of research in the NHS and the wider health and care system.

Summary of Impact Synthesis

Our report summarises the impacts and benefits of NIHR’s support for clinical, applied health and social care research and research infrastructure across 100 case studies, clustered across 10 themes of delivery, collaboration and achievement.

Looking across the breadth of these 10 themes and the depth of the benefits synthesised in the 100 case studies, we see evidence that, over the past 10 years, NIHR has transformed R&D in and for the NHS and the patients it serves. The examples in these case studies illustrate that NIHR is undertaking world-class research, as well as supporting, enabling and delivering research through its partners. Specifically, it shows that:

  • NIHR is delivering benefits to patients. NIHR is developing innovations that can be delivered throughout the health and social care system, such as more personalised and cost-effective dementia care, the first ever implant of a fully synthetic trachea, new treatments for breast cancer and dedicated partnerships to support research in rare disease areas.
  • NIHR is improving the health of the public nationally and internationally. NIHR-supported public health research is leading to reductions in alcohol-related harm, improving smoking prevention strategies and increasing vaccination coverage for H1N1 and childhood immunisation. Worldwide, more than 1 million people stand to benefit from NIHR-funded research into the off-label use of tranexamic acid to aid clotting during traumatic bleeding.
  • NIHR is making the nation’s healthcare system more effective, cost-effective and safer. NIHR-funded research into patient safety has informed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist, which is significantly reducing post-operative complications. Other research is identifying cost-effective solutions that save money in areas ranging from physical therapy, to dementia, to diabetes.
  • NIHR helps put patients and the public at the heart of research. NIHR is a world leader in patient and public involvement, and there have been tangible improvements to how research is able to deliver patient benefit. INVOLVE, NIHR-funded national public involvement centre and advisory group, helps ensure that patients and the public are effectively involved at all stages of research studies, making them more acceptable and meaningful for research users of all ages.
  • NIHR supports a research infrastructure in the NHS. NIHR supports a national research infrastructure of world-class research centres, units and facilities, as well as the Clinical Research Network. Together these provide coverage across the health research system in England and enable and facilitate both research funded by NIHR itself and research funded through charities, industry, and other government funders. In 2014/15, from an initial investment of £227.8 million, NIHR research infrastructure leveraged £1.06 billion in research funding from NIHR’s public, charity and industry research funding partners.


Project Team

Molly Morgan Jones
Adam Kamenetzky
Catriona Manville
Jonathan Grant
Ioana Ghiga
Calum Maclure
Emma Harte
Anton Spisak
Anne Kirtley
Louise Lepetit
Emma Pitchforth
Celine Miani