Strategic Research Alliance with the Royal College of Nursing

We are delighted to be working with the Royal College of Nursing on a five-year (2018-2023) Strategic Research Alliance.

The Strategic Research Alliance team

Over the five years, we will conduct a new programme of research activity, supporting the development of nursing research evidence and research capacity.

Ultimately the work will seek to influence public policy and promote better outcomes for the population and the NHS workforce.

The core objectives of the Strategic Research Alliance are as follows:

  • To produce excellent international quality research and evidence reviews that will inform national and international nursing and health practice and policy, thus benefiting patients, families, health professionals and health outcomes;
  • To disseminate and share research findings to inform developments in education, practice and policy designed to improve nursing and health care;
  • To enhance public and user awareness of nursing issues;
  • To work alongside users, carers and stakeholders to ensure that the activities are significant, meaningful and timely;
  • To utilise research to inform nursing educational programmes.

The work will be organised under three key themes: Workforce, education and evaluation.

Strategic Research Alliance logo


We will conduct a new programme of research activity, supporting the development of nursing research evidence and research capacity. Ultimately the work will seek to influence public policy and promote better outcomes for the population and the NHS workforce.

Trainee Nursing Associate

The Nursing Associate (NA) role was developed in England in response to the ‘Shape of Caring’ review (2015) which highlights variations in standards of training for health care assistants in the UK. NAs are trained to work across all four fields of nursing to bridge the gap between unregulated health care assistants and registered nurses. This new role is viewed as one solution to the current shortfall in the nursing workforce (of around 40.000).

Policy assumptions have been made that NAs will make a valuable contribution to nursing, that 50% of NAs will go on to become registered nurses, and that the transition to nursing will be smooth with lower attrition rates than other student nurses.

Our research into this emerging role in healthcare aims to evaluate these assumptions using a range of methods. Initially focus groups will be undertaken, followed by a longitudinal cohort study; exploring motivations for undertaking NA training, systems of clinical support for TNAs, their career aspirations and notions of workplace identity. Interviews will explore sub groups of the cohort in more depth. This will allow us to make recommendations for TNA recruitment, support and career development.

Continuing Professional Development (Upskilling)

The provision of post-registration nursing education is under scrutiny in the UK as the government and the nursing profession try to balance cost-efficiency with ensuring safe and effective patient care.

In England, there have been significant changes to the level of funding for nurses to continue to maintain and advance their skills and knowledge after they qualify. This is generally known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Similar concerns about opportunities to undertake CPD have been expressed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Concerns have also been raised by the Royal College of Nursing, by the House of Commons Health Committee and by the Council of Deans of Health about how limited access to nursing CPD will impact areas such as patient care, and nursing recruitment and retention.

As part of the Strategic Research Alliance, we are currently working with the RCN to determine a research focus around the status of nursing CPD in the four countries of the UK. This working group consultation will lead to a work-plan around nursing CPD to be completed in 2019 and details of this will be placed on the website as soon as they become available.

A list of recent group publications can be found here:

Advanced Level Nursing Practitioner

What an Advanced Nursing Practitioner (ANP) is has not been well defined and there was concern that ANP meant very different things in different parts of the NHS. To address this the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) set up a credentialing scheme to set a recognised standard for ANPs.

This study aims to sign up a group of ANPs who have been ‘credentialed’, to discover their experiences of work and of the scheme. We will send them questionnaires every year to see how things change and develop new questions based on their responses. We aim to impact on patient care by improving the experiences of ANPs across the NHS. To find out more about the details of the study click here to go to our blog site and read the participant information sheet.

Safe and Effective Staffing

This work addresses both policy and professional concerns about the relationship between nursing skill mix, patient and caregiver outcomes and nurse workplace experience. The work is currently centred on evidence review activities, although there is future scope to undertake primary research. So far we have undertaken a scoping review of existing literature to examine the quantity and distribution of evidence on skill mix variations and interventions in nursing.

This review is being followed up with a systematic review on the question of missed care in primary and community settings, including nursing home care. The concept of missed care is significant because of its relationship with poor patient outcomes (both immediate and longer term), negative workplace experience and the potential to contribute to increase resource use. The systematic review is being undertaken with colleagues at ScHARR (Dr Andrew Booth and Dr Katie Sworn).

Consensus Development Project

One of the research projects is exploring the issue of safe and effective nursing care. The overall aim of this is to reach consensus from a range of people and organisations about the key factors influencing safe and effective nursing care. The project is called a Consensus Development Project (CDP). The findings of the project will be used by the RCN to influence health policy and the NHS and nursing profession organisations and aim to promote a safe and effective nursing workforce in the future.

The CDP on safe and effective nursing care will consist of a number of stages, described below:

Relevant reports are reviewed and the issue of safe and effective nursing care is discussed with stakeholders and public and patient groups to guide the development of questions. Invited ‘experts’ review the evidence and write a report. A conference event is held. Invited ‘experts’ present to a lay panel who will raise questions and discuss key issues with ‘experts’. A consensus statement is produced at the end of the event. This summarises the discussion and provides brief recommendations. After the event, the research team and the lay panel co-produce a consensus statement. This is finalised after a consultation period. ‘Experts’ publish peer review articles and policy briefings are disseminated.

Capacity Building

The Strategic Research Alliance aims to provide high quality teaching and research capacity building. We are interested in hearing from potential PhD students who are interested in our core research areas and throughout the project we will have clinical scholarships that will aim to allow research engagement and development from nurses across the four nations.

Current PhD students

Linda Tinkler
Leadership and the perceptions, motivators and behaviours that impact on practice and experiences in clinical research nursing.

Anna Riley
An ethnographic study to assess the utility and impact of Advanced Nurse Practitioners in Surgical Ambulatory Care settings.

Louise Bolton
Exploring how the existential needs of those with advanced COPD requiring palliative care can be met through the development of a nurse-led intervention.

Clinical Scholarships

Clinical Scholars:
In line with the research capacity building goals within the Strategic Research Alliance (SRA) work programme, there will be up to two clinical scholarships offered every year of the SRA. We will work with the RCN across the four UK Nations to develop the focus of the scholarships. The research team from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, at the University of Sheffield, will work with the RCN across the four UK Nations to identify research priorities that will provide the focus for the scholarship activity.

The scholarships will enable clinical nurses to undertake some research activity with the support and supervision of the SRA team at the University of Sheffield. Activity is anticipated to include evidence reviews as well as primary research. The scholarships will lead to research outputs including publications, conference presentations and briefing papers. Scholars will be supported to use the experience to support the development of their research careers, if appropriate, for example through developing a PhD fellowship application.

2018 Rosie Adams - Factors affecting nurse retention in mental health services

Research seminars: 
As part of the Strategic Research Alliance (SRA), the research team from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, at the University of Sheffield, will work with the RCN across the four UK Nations to develop a series of seminars. These will vary in nature and target audience depending on the priorities in England, Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales during the time of the SRA. The target audience will also vary. For some there will be a policy or strategic emphasis. Others will aim to involve practice based, clinical nurses to discuss workforce or practice issues. The aim of the seminars will be to share and comment on recent evidence related to the seminar topics.

Contact: Dr Steve Robertson


The team consists of researchers with backgrounds in nursing, health visiting and sociology.

Principal Investigators:
Professor Angela Tod
Professor Tony Ryan
Professor Jane Seymour

Director of the Programme:
Dr Steve Robertson

Research Fellow:
Dr Emily Wood

Research Associates:
Dr Beth Taylor
Rachel King
Dr Michaela Senek

Kate Chadwick 
Angela Dobromylskyj


To view the presentations/posters, please use the following links:

SRA Introduction presentation
Poster - ANP Event, London, November 2018

Contact us

Professor Angela Tod
T: +44 (0) 114 222 2057

Professor Tony Ryan
T: +44 (0) 114 222 2062

Postal Address:
Strategic Research Alliance
The University of Sheffield
Room B02 Barber House Annexe
3a Clarkhouse Road
S10 2LA