Research priorities in adult social care

Martin Knapp Completed   2019


NIHR SSCR was commissioned by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) to review known research priorities in adult social care and map these to the NETSCC funding streams.


The aim was to identify a list of research priorities that NETSCC could consider to commission further adult social care research projects and possible themed research calls.

There are few, large-scale examples of a structured priority-setting exercise in adult social care. One example is the James Lind Alliance (JLA) Priority Setting Partnership (PSP), which aims to identify research priorities in Adult Social Work. Given the lack of such exercises in general in the sector, this review aimed to use previous work that has taken various means to identify research priorities for the sector. These include reviews of evidence on a topic which have led to identified priorities (such as in guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)) and consultation exercises.

In this report, the authors pulled together previously identified research priorities in a format to help inform discussions about what research to commission.


This review of research priorities focuses on adult social care, consistent with the remit of NIHR SSCR, and reflecting the administrative division of responsibilities between the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) (adult social care) and the Department for Education (social care of children and young people). However, the realities of social care and of research are not so neatly separated, and so some of the research priorities included in the report transcended this adult-young people divide.

The approach employed in this scoping review was to identify research priorities in social care reported in the NICE Social Care guidelines, NIHR SSCR-commissioned research projects and reviews, JLA PSPs and some other key reports.

Initially, a list of over 300 research questions was drawn from these sources. This preliminary list was reviewed and questions with known (and recent) research answers and those covering areas of on-going research were removed. Next, overlapping questions were combined, producing a list of 30 research priorities. Where possible, these were matched to NETSCC funding streams, as per the remit for this work. This composite list of research priorities was presented to two NIHR SSCR consultative groups: the User, Carer, Practitioner Reference Group and the Advisory Board. Feedback from both groups was incorporated into the final list of research priorities. The work was overseen by the NIHR SSCR Executive Group.


Thirty research priorities were identified with possible NETSCC research funding streams.

A number of research recommendations incorporated in to the list of priorities presented in the review relate to diversity and inequalities, including the investigation of user experience and long-term outcomes. In some cases, a recommendation covered several settings or population groups (e.g. housing or support), while others did not specify a setting or population group.

The individual research priorities in the list may also need further refining for specific research calls in relation to the existing knowledge base and methodological issues. For example, some focus on effectiveness or cost-effectiveness, but further scoping work may be required to establish if descriptive research would be useful in the first instance. Also, there are studies that address some of the priorities but focus on particular groups/settings; these have been included in the list as the issues they cover are also likely to be relevant to other groups/settings.

Research priorities in adult social care: Scoping review
( )
Pubs page