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Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research

One of the UK’s leading research centres for health policy research and postgraduate teaching in primary care.

The Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research is acknowledged internationally as one of the UK’s leading research centres for health policy research and postgraduate teaching in primary care.

We aim to:

  • deliver high-quality research to inform the development of primary care;
  • disseminate and support implementation of research findings to promote the development of evidence-based primary care;
  • build capacity in primary care research.

Our work is multidisciplinary and brings together staff who are GPs, psychiatrists, sociologists, psychologists, statisticians, economists and health services researchers.

We have 16 senior academic staff, 60 research staff, and 28 postgraduate students.

The Centre is a founder member of the prestigious NIHR School for Primary Care Research, a collaboration of eight leading primary care departments.

We also make major contributions to:

Led by: Professor Peter Bower.

An illustration of a concept for a medical interface.

Our research

We have four themes of high relevance to care delivery.

Health organisation, policy and economics (HOPE)

This interdisciplinary theme focuses upon research which investigates the supply, organisation, management and financing of health and social care services.

Our expertise encompasses rigorous econometric analysis and a wide range of qualitative social scientific methods, including particular experience in the use of ethnographic approaches to understand organisational processes.

We use mixed methods to study the important challenges facing health and care systems, including:

  • care organisation, delivery and integration;
  • payment and incentive systems;
  • determinants of health and health inequalities;
  • working conditions and labour supply.

We aim to inform the development of future health and care policy, and communicate our findings to government, policy-makers, practitioners and academics.

Led by: Professor Kath Checkland and Professor Matt Sutton.

Our activity

  • Ongoing projects include evaluations of health and social care devolution in Greater Manchester, integrated care models in England and Europe, and the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.
  • We are part of the Department of Health and Social Care Policy Research Unit in Commissioning and the Healthcare System We co-lead the Primary Care theme of the Greater Manchester Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLARHC), and work closely with colleagues across the University.
  • We have examined the work experiences of GPs for 20 years, most recently surveying GPs in 2017.
  • We undertake research on various aspects of the primary care workforce, including the career choices of junior doctors and skill-mix in primary care teams.
  • We also help to manage the Health Policy and Politics Network (HPPN) and the European Health Economics Association (EuHEA).

Quality and safety

This theme focuses on conducting innovative, needs-driven and applied research to improve quality of care and patient safety in primary care, particularly in general practice and community pharmacy as well as the interface of hospital and social care.

We are an interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians in primary care, pharmacy, mental health, informatics, epidemiology and statistics.

We develop and test the mechanisms for high quality, safer primary care systems, which are integrated with hospital and community settings. 

Our aims are to:

  • Work together with patients, carers, members of the public and healthcare providers using a co-design and learning approach that takes a shared responsibility approach to better quality of care and making health and care safer
  • Develop ground-breaking digital and behavioural interventions to facilitate effective communication between patients, healthcare providers and healthcare systems creating cycles of continuous safety improvement. 
  • Create evidence-based strategies to reduce common sources of patient safety problems (e.g. medication and prescribing) and improve safety in marginalised groups of patients.

Led by Professor Stephen Campbell and Dr Maria Panagioti.

Our activity

  • We host the Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (GM PSTRC), which was funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) in 2012 and received a second award in 2017 for five years.
  • GM PSTRC is the first patient safety centre with a focus on primary care at the interface of hospital and community care. 
  • We work closely with colleagues across The University of Manchester and other universities nationally (e.g. University of Nottingham, Cardiff University) and internationally.

Person-centred care and complex health needs

We focus on ensuring patient and professional experience is at the centre of research to address health and healthcare needs. We have particular expertise in self-management, multimorbidity, mental health and health technology assessment. 

Our aims are:

  • To conduct high quality research into the delivery, effectiveness and experience of care for patients with long-term conditions.
  • To have a demonstrable impact on the delivery of care for long-term conditions nationally and internationally.

To achieve this, we:

  • Develop evidence-based interventions grounded in an in-depth understanding of everyday lives and practices to manage health and illness, and the interface with routine clinical practice.
  • Navigate the challenge of maximising the utility of technologies/interventions while minimising treatment burden for patients and unnecessary clinician workload.
  • Support system resilience through collaboration across the interfaces of care and through partnership with patients, carers and members of the public.

Led by Professor Caroline Sanders and Dr Thomas Blakeman.

Our activity

  • Health and illness experience – understanding such experiences is crucial for designing and evaluating interventions to support management of long-term conditions and for maximising health and wellbeing, minimising deterioration and secondary morbidity.
  • Primary care mental health – improving quality and access to primary mental health care for people with either common mental health problems or serious mental illness.
  • Multimorbidity and frailty – develop the evidence base to improve the delivery of care for people living with multiple long-term conditions.
  • Technology and service delivery – focused on their role for supporting management of long term conditions, including physical and mental health problems.

Health in a wider context

We focus on how the wider context impacts on health and on health and care policy.

Wider influences are important in shaping patterns of health and in designing efficient and equitable health and care systems.

There is a major challenge in understanding the relationships between the health and social care system and population health in different contexts. Little is known about the boundaries between the formal care system, community assets, informal care in families, and individual health behaviours. 

The wealth of data routinely collected across both primary and secondary care is vastly underutilised. These datasets can be linked to others to provide clear geographical snapshots of service quality, disease burden, finances and socioeconomic deprivation, and identify regional differences. It can then be used to address a range of primary care research questions.

Led by Professor Evan Kontopantelis and Dr Luke Munford.

Our activity

  • Epidemiology and time trends of chronic conditions, processes, health service utilisation, medication use.
  • Inequalities and regional variation (across and within English and UK regions).
  • Spatial analyses and mapping.
  • Risk prediction modelling and machine learning approaches.
  • Methodological research in this, especially in large observational databases.
  • Applying statistical and econometric methods to existing secondary data to investigate the determinants of health and ill-health.
A futuristic concept of a digital healthcare diagnostic interface.


We have a range of options if you are interested in primary care.

Postgraduate research

Search for PhD projects in related areas of research.

Postgraduate taught courses

Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF) programme

This is an NIHR-funded integrated academic training programme for junior doctors. It enables newly-qualified doctors who are interested in an academic career to pursue their academic interests in parallel with their clinical training.

Information about applications is available on the North West Deanery’s website.



We have an active seminar series, covering many aspect of primary care.

Our seminar series is host to both internal and external speakers, covering key topics in primary care and health services research.

View a PDF of our forthcoming seminars:


News and updates

Keep up to date with our work.


Public engagement

Members of the public and patients play a key role in our research.

The Centre aims to support and promote the involvement of patients and the public in health research, through our patient and public involvement group PRIMER.



If you want to know more about our work in primary care and health services research, get in touch.