Centre for Health Services Studies

Excellence in Health Research

After the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, councils took over responsibilities for public health from the NHS. This included promoting and improving health (e.g. sexual health clinics, health visitors, promoting physical activity, and promoting good health through its other activities such as transport, urban planning and education). Research is recognised to be a key part of NHS activity, with research active NHS organisations having better patient outcomes.

There are concerns that councils do not use research evidence and take part in as much research, not seeing it as part of their role, or useful. Councils may not have the research knowledge, experience and culture that is generally embedded in the NHS. There are concerns that councils’ established ways of working do not always give research evidence sufficient prominence in decision-making, which tends to focus on local context and political constraints.

This project aims to understand how to develop a system to support councils to use research evidence more effectively and to develop, usually in collaboration with university research departments, good quality applications for funding. We will use Kent County Council and Medway Council as study sites and have secured the collaboration of both Directors of Public Health. We will develop a questionnaire in collaboration with members of the public and the council employees. We will survey council employees to map out how research is used, what research has been carried out, and investigate what they know about research and their attitudes to it. We will then interview council employees and councillors to gain further insights into these issues and explore what they think might work to promote research culture. We will run a workshop bringing together university researchers, council employees, councillors and members of the public to identify the possible structure and function of such a research system and a plan for implementation.

The outputs of this would be a design for a research system to enable better use of research evidence and to facilitate more research being carried out in Kent, an estimate of resources needed to make it happen and a framework to guide other councils to do the same with their local universities. We will work with the councils to implement the findings. In the long run we hope that this will enhance the process of council decision-making and improve outcomes for the communities served.

Start date: 1/8/20; End Date: 30/11/20
Funder: NIHR Public Health Research Programme (20/30 NIHR Local Authority Research System call)
Funding: £48,406


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Who is involved


Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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Last Updated: 28/09/2020