Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research
« back

Health Technology Assessment Funding Tips

  Created on Monday, 07 Nov 2016. Posted in Funding Tips

HTA the largest of the NIHR programmes and is the last stage in the translational pathway. The scheme funds definitive studies looking at effectiveness, costs and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests.

There are no fixed limits on duration or funding but value for money must be demonstrated. The application process can take of 12 months and there is a 25% success rate for second stage submissions.

To be successful in getting funding you’ll need to convince the panel of the:

Health Impact
Quantify the health burden, how many people are eligible to use the new intervention (rare conditions research can be funded if there is a severe impact to health that would be improved by an intervention).
Quality of life is very important as many people have co-morbidities. Years gained and outcomes of ‘major events’ are all important measures (lives saved often inappropriate).

Economic Impact
The panel isn’t interested in how much the disease costs, so much as how much could be saved by the intervention. It is hard to get data on impact measures such as changes to NIHR staffing, equipment, training etc but they’d all be relevant.
Impact on society can also be used here ie an intervention that could enable patients of working age to go back to work or increase productivity.

Clinical Importance
The research question must be important to clinicians. Ideal is if you can show variation in clinical decision making or show an uncertainty in clinical guidelines as this provides a powerful evidence of need.
If research recommendations aren’t available it is possible to generate them yourself by carrying out surveys and priority-setting exercises.

Value for Money
Cost per patient recruited good marker to see if the research is worth the cost (>£1,000 per patient). Trials costing more than £2-3 million need to be really important or show big impacts. However trials need to be deliverable for the money so if you cost too low your bid is also likely to fail.
When justifying the cost make is clear and explicit how it will work – flash statements won’t work, they need to be backed up with arguments.

Public Involvement
If you get public involvement wrong you won’t get funded. So ensure you are measuring patient centred outcomes to give you the best chance to recruit patients and minimise drop out during the trial.
Make sure you have solid feedback and dissemination plans in place.

Tips for success:

Team:

  • Show that your team can answer the research question by detailing your track record in both the science and delivery of trials.
  • Make sure the team has the appropriate skill mix to deliver the trial and explain who is going to do what to justify money and time allocated to each team member.

Outcome measure:

  • Your primary outcome has to be in line with the research question. Ensure the link is very clear to convince the panel, add an explanation if needed.
  • What difference in the primary outcome will the trial detect? Be realistic and honest – is it important and is it deliverable?

Scientific quality:

  • Provide a good theoretical justification as to why the intervention is a good fit for the group/disease. Give enough detail to avoid second guessing.
  • Clearly specify qualitative research and health economics elements avoiding formulaic statements. You’ve included them for a reason so tell the panel why they are important elements.
  • Mention appropriate systematic reviews, show the panel that you are aware of where your research fits into the current body of evidence.
  • Mention pilot work if available to reduce uncertainties in trial delivery.

Trial stages:

  • Integrate the different stages of your study plan, showing how they weave together and how outcomes of stages will lead to a decision pathway.
  • Provide a flow diagram showing the patient pathway (with exclusion and inclusion criteria) of what treatment and what monitoring will be provided.
  • It is important to provide a trajectory with feasibility studies, indicated stages to mark success and progression.
  • Be open about problems with the trial – the panel will spot them so be open and suggest possible solutions.

Public Involvement:

  • Show that you know the value of public involvement. Demonstrate patient- centred outcomes and how patients have been involved in the study design.
  • Highlight how patient involvement has influenced the design of the study and how they will continue to provide input throughout the trial.

Finance:

  • Provide letters of support from the centres that have been signed up for the study, should it be funded.
  • Make sure you include enough centres in the study.

Lead-writer:

  • Get one person to be the lead-writer of the application as this avoids a patchwork effect and the bid will be more coherent.
  • Make it easy to read and avoid acronyms
  • Avoid cut and paste statements of importance from disease specific documents/websites.
  • Avoid shoe-horning your research idea into a commissioned call and stick to the brief!
  • Get your work peer reviewed to check for clarity and consistency between sections.