Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research
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The renewed NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme

  Created on Thursday, 21 Apr 2016. Posted in Funding Tips

The following is a summariy of Professor David Armstrong's key points on the renewed programme!

RfPB is a small grants programme with the top limit of £350,000 for projects. It is seen as a conduit to the bigger programmes such as HTA and PHR.

  • Upper limit of £350,000 for research with a clear and close trajectory to patient benefit
  • Soft ceiling of £250,000 for feasibility studies (these are essentially de-risking studies for future trials. Recruitment is a major problem for trials and so having a small feasibility study to see if it’s doable is worthwhile even if the answer is 'no' as it can save a lot of money down the line)
  • Higher risk (further from patient benefit) cost less than £150,000. These are studies that are upstream and will need further studies before they provide patient benefit.

High risk studies that are open ended and inductive in approach aren’t what the funding stream is looking for. However below is a list of examples that would be considered:

  • Observational studies
  • Developing and refining interventions
  • Developing new scales or outcome measures
  • Exploratory studies that might provide insights into an intractable problem
  • Additional follow up of patients in a completed clinical trial
  • Post-market surveillance for unknown side-effects of a drug (Phase IV trials)
  • Systematic reviews where the number of relevant studies is likely to be limited

RfPB is also seen as a programme that previous fellowship applicants can access and new investigators can be named as the PI on the bid as long as they are part of a solid team.
Panels will be looking at the bids and judging:

  • Do we like the research?
  • Can this team deliver it?

The new 2 stage application process has been introduced to try and make the process easier to access and to speed up the pace of the whole application process.

At stage 1 only half of the application process needs to be completed – aim/question, background and methods.
The panel at this stage is looking at:

  • ‘are we interested in this question?’ and
  • ‘can it be answered using these methods?’

Formative feedback will be given to successful projects on how to improve the bid to have a better chance of success in the second stage. It’s very important that researchers act on the feedback.

The turnaround to the second stage is only 4-6 weeks but submission can be deferred to the next round if there are issues getting the costings sorted. With the new system the programme is hoping to have a 50% success rate of those submitting to the second stage.

Patient involvement and benefit has always been central to the RfPB but rather than being constrained to the public involvement section of the application form the panels are being encouraged to broaden what is considered. Projects that answer the following questions in their bid are more likely to be reviewed positively.

  • Would an answer to the question be important to patients?
  • Are outcome measures relevant for patients?
  • Is the burden of being in the study acceptable?

The programme director has also heavily emphasised the importance of avoiding ‘me too’ applications. He describes these as one arm bandit applications where a known intervention is applied to a new disease or different population. These applications are increasingly being seen as a waste of money – applying logic to the situation can often predict the answer without any need to do the research. The examples he gave were CBT or exercise having a proven effect and so there is no need to trial it for every disease in every population to know that it will probably provide some improvement.