Strengthening equity and diversity in healthcare improvement

The offer

We are launching a new fellowship to support research into strengthening equity and diversity in healthcare improvement.

Improving equality, diversity and inclusion in healthcare is a key priority. A key imperative arises from the marked differences that are evident in access, quality, experiences and outcomes of services for people from different socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds – including, for example, race/ethnicity, disability, socio-economic status and sex/gender – yet improvement efforts have not always paid enough attention to issues of equity. Further challenges of equity also arise in relation to the diverse workforce of NHS. At the same time, the data needed to identify and act on problems is variable in quality, inclusivity, and completeness.

THIS Institute welcomes fellowship applications with projects to address issues to strengthen equality, diversity and inclusion to improve healthcare. The call covers all areas of equality, diversity and inclusion, and applications relating to single or multiple protected characteristics, as defined by the 2010 Equality Act, are welcome. We would also value improvement research focused on poverty, employment and other socioeconomic dimensions and the interplay between different forms of disadvantage. The scope of this fellowship is deliberately broad to allow for new thinking and ideas. Applications should target one of four priority areas:

  • Improving improvement through attention to equity, inclusion and diversity.
  • Equity, inclusion and diversity in access.
  • Inclusion, diversity and equity in the NHS workforce.
  • Data, methods and measurement relating to equity and improvement.

We are seeking applications from researchers with relevant expertise at any level from post-doctoral to professor. Applications are invited from individuals currently in post at UK universities or other research-intensive environment (eg charity, non-profit think tank or NHS organisation).The successful applicant will remain employed by their own university or organisation and will be part of a vibrant professional learning community supported by THIS Institute.

This fellowship should be completed in 24 months, or up to a maximum of 36 months if part-time. Projects delivering in shorter timelines also encouraged. It is expected that the fellowship will begin in summer 2023.

What we offer

Each award will include salary costs (at the agreed proportion of FTE) and research expenses directly relevant to the project up to a maximum of £220K.

It is expected, at a minimum, that a university or organisation will use the funding to pay for:

  • Salary costs for the fellow including all on-costs (superannuation, NI and apprenticeship levy).
  • Research costs (eg items of small equipment, data access, transcription costs, meeting costs, and expenses for service-user participants).
  • Participation costs and expenses. Please consider the costs for engagement with a diverse range of participants and stakeholders. Examples might include costs for translation services, accessibility support etc.
  • Dissemination and publication costs, for example open-access publications.

The appointed fellow will be offered a professional development programme which will be discussed on award and customised to the specifics of the fellow’s needs, commitments, and fellowship duration. The programme may include, for example, membership of a learning set, coaching, and/or mentoring. Full engagement with the agreed programme will be expected.


Selection criteria

Who can apply?

THIS Institute is looking to support researchers from a wide range of relevant backgrounds and disciplines, and at different stages of career (from post-doctoral to professor).  Given the historic under-representation of health service/improvement researchers from ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other minoritised groups, we hope to see a broad range of applicants to this call.

Candidates from any UK university or research-intensive environment (eg charity, non-profit think tank or NHS organisation) may apply to the scheme. Applicants should be already in post in their employing organisation and will remain employed by their own organisation. More than one application per organisation can be submitted.

Applicants should have a PhD in a relevant discipline or, exceptionally, equivalent postgraduate research experience. If in clinical specialty training, applicants will be responsible for making their own arrangements with the relevant deanery or Local education and training board, or equivalent, where appropriate.

Applicants should be sufficiently post-doctoral (or equivalent) to able to lead a project independently while sustaining excellent relationships with diverse stakeholders.

All applications must be submitted via our fellowship management system. All applications should have organisational support and be approved by a budgetary authority/finance office. For further information please refer to the guidance for applicants.

We are committed to supporting a diverse range of applicants throughout the application and selection process.

What we’re looking for

  • Experienced and skilled researchers who can lead the project independently while working collaboratively.
  • This call is intended for research and/or evaluation studies (not quality improvement projects), and should be conducted to appropriate standards of scientific rigour and ethics.
  • Projects should have thoughtful and embedded stakeholder engagement, including appropriate staff, patient and public input and attention to under-served groups.
  • A diverse range of methodological and theoretical approaches may be relevant to this call, but all must use sound research principles and methods.
  • Applicants may have a clinical or non-clinical background.
  • Applicants should have a PhD in a relevant area or, exceptionally, equivalent postgraduate research experience.
  • Good publications record for stage of career, including peer-reviewed outputs.

Application stages

How to apply

All applications must be submitted via our fellowship management system. All applications should have organisational support and be approved by a budgetary authority/finance office. For further information please refer to the guidance for applicants.

We are committed to supporting a diverse range of applicants throughout the application and selection process.

Application stages

Before you apply

We encourage you to check that your application is eligible and competitive by reading the guidance for applicants. Applicants will be required to agree to THIS Institute’s standard Themed Fellowships Award Conditions at the time of application. If you have questions about the fellowship, please contact We will also be holding a webinar on 17 January 2023 so you can find out what a high-quality application looks like and talk to our fellowship team. Following the webinar we can offer a single opportunity to talk through your fellowship proposal with our fellowship team.

1. Submit your application

All applications must be submitted online through the Fellowship Management System by 12 noon on Wednesday 8 March 2023. Late submissions will not be accepted.

2. Review and shortlisting

Applications will be checked initially for eligibility and completeness, and assessed by an expert panel against the selection criteria included in the guidance for applicants.

3. Interview

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview.

4. Final decision

All applicants will be notified of the funding decision.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can research assistants, supervisors, consultants be funded on the project?

No staff salaries other than the main applicant can be costed. The main applicant salary details must include all on-costs (superannuation, NI, and apprenticeship levy).

For permanent members of staff, e.g. lecturer/, assistant professor and above, we would typically cost as directly allocated (DA) instead of directly incurred (DI).

THIS Institute only fund directly incurred costs (DI). If the fellowship is going to be held by a professor or senior staff member we require an accurate DI salary costing for the time they spend on the fellowship rather than a small percentage of time allocated across a whole range of projects.

What do you mean by directly incurred costs?

Directly incurred costs are those items that are specifically purchased for the project. They are charged on the basis of cash amount spent and are verifiable and auditable from the accounting records, invoices for non-pay expenditure and payroll for staffing.

Will you be repeating this fellowship call?

We will not be repeating this fellowship call.

Are socioeconomic inequalities in scope?

Yes, this fellowship call covers all dimensions of inequalities affecting access, experience and outcomes of healthcare. This includes employment, income and other elements of socioeconomic status as well as protected characteristics defined by the 2010 Equality Act such as race, age or disability. We are also interested in multiple inequalities and impact on individuals and groups with more than one form of disadvantage or difference.

What is the difference between improvement projects and improvement research?

Improvement projects in the NHS take different forms but involve use of structured tools to improve quality of care. Most start with a problem, introduce a change to make things better and measure the impact. Many will be small-scale, such as introducing a clinical pharmacist in three hospital wards to review medications for people with dementia and measure the number of medicine incidents before and after. Improvement research draws on a broader range of theoretical and research knowledge about how organisations work or people behave. Research projects would look at issues of context and transferability of findings to other settings. As well as drawing on relevant evidence, improvement research uses established theory and research methods to eliminate bias and maximise the impact of findings for policy and practice. Improvement research to reduce medication incidents for people with dementia in hospital for instance would build on existing evidence of what works to design a complex intervention including ward-based pharmacists and test it in a number of hospitals (with comparators and national reference data) using quantitative and qualitative methods.

Do we fund payment to advocacy or community groups working with research participants or for research participants or collaborators themselves?

We do support costs for engaging with diverse stakeholders in terms of translation services and accessibility support. Additional payment for those taking part in research or to support them to take part might be considered as reasonable costs – using INVOLVE guidance for paying public contributors and other frameworks.  In general terms, this is a personal award for researchers to carry out projects themselves and does not cover salaried costs of co-applicants.  Where though additional costs are needed for appropriate input and engagement with research participants, particularly those who may have been overlooked by research in the past, this can be considered on a case by case basis.  These kinds of costs would need to be proportionate, given the focus is on personal awards to individual researchers.

The budget section of the guidance gives the following information, “The appointed fellow should be in post at their own university or host institution at time of application, with the intention that they remain employed by that organisation for the duration of the fellowship.” To explain this in more detail, we have provided further information in this answer.

We welcome applications from people on any type of contract, whether that is permanent or fixed term, part time or full time. This requirement is designed to ensure commitment from your organisation to host and support the fellowship for the duration of the award. Researchers coming to the end of their contract at time of application are welcome to apply, having checked with head of department that their institution would be happy to host the fellowship if successful.  If you have any further questions about eligibility, or would like to discuss individual circumstances, please contact us at

Apply for this fellowship

Log in to our Fellowship Management System. You can save your application and return to it at any time.

Apply for this fellowship