MCRU Evaluating health services

Established in 1966, the Medical Care Research Unit (MCRU) is one of the UK's leading health services research groups.


The Medical Care Research Unit has been conducting high quality health services research for almost 50 years. Our aim is to carry out research that influences health care practice and policy for the benefit of NHS patients and the public. We describe and evaluate services and technologies to measure the impact on patient outcomes, service effectiveness and the wider social and economic effects.

Our aim is to help improve people’s health through high quality research. Currently members of our research unit are Chief Investigators on over £6 million and co-investigators on over £4 million of research funded by the National Institute of Health and the Medical Research Council.

MCRU staff provide support to ScHARR Postgraduate Taught Programmes and Postgraduate Research Students undertaking PhD studies.

Research Themes

Evaluating Health Care- Long term conditions

We collaborate with clinicians, social scientists and clinical trials units to develop interventions and then test them in randomised control trials (RCTs).

Healthlines - developed a theory based telehealth intervention to improve the health of people with depression and people with high risk of cardiovascular disease. Two RCTs of 600 people each showed that the intervention had a modest effect for depression and improved some risk factors such as high blood pressure and weight.

WILD – modified a main stream commercial weight loss programme for use with people with learning disabilities.

ACTiF - developed a theory-informed telehealth intervention to reduce exacerbations in adults with cystic fibrosis by helping them to adhere to their nebuliser treatment. Planning an RCT of 700 people.

DEUCE - identifying drivers of demand for emergency and urgent care. A mixed methods study using realist synthesis, qualitative interviews and a national survey.

VAN - explaining variation in non-conveyance rates between Emergency Medical Services (ambulance services). A mixed methods study using routine data, non-participant observation and qualitative interviews.

Planned future research: optimal pathways for diabetes emergency health events; RCT of weight loss intended for people with a learning disability; why people use different health services when seeking urgent care.

Methodological research

We improve how researchers do research. MRC Methodology funding:

QUART - Maximising the value of qualitative research in randomised controlled trials

INDEX (Identifying and assessing different approaches to developing complex interventions)

The MRC ConDuCT-II Hub – Collaboration and innovation in difficult and complex randomised controlled trials in invasive procedures.

Over the years we have written about how best to undertake Mixed Methods research.       

We specialise in:

  • mixed methods research
  • qualitative research (non-participant observation, interviews, focus groups)
  • qualitative evidence synthesis
  • participatory-based research

Teaching, PhDs and Knowledge Transfer

  • Dr. Elizabeth Croot is the Director of Masters in Clinical Research
  • We supervise 7 PhD candidates
  • We run short courses in Mixed Methods Research in the UK and Europe

  • Alexis Foster is undertaking a PhD funded by the NIHR Doctoral Fellowship scheme. It is a mixed methods study, exploring the facilitators and barriers to implementing Patient Reported Outcome Measures within third sector organisations such as charities. The reason for this research is that the evidence base on third sector activities is limited and it is important to identify ways to improve this. Throughout, a community-based participatory approach will be taken, where the research will be developed and delivered in conjunction with stakeholders. The PhD is supported by MCRU, with Professor Alicia O'Cathain as lead supervisor.


  • We collaborate with colleagues in Emergency and Urgent Care, supervising PhDs and leading research projects
  • Prof. Jon Nicholl is the Director of the National School of Public Health Research

Our contact details are:

School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)
University of Sheffield
Regent Court
30 Regent Street
S1 4DA

Telephone: 0114 222 0751

Fax: 0114 222 0749

For further information, please contact: Veronica Fibisan

Follow updates and news on Twitter through #MCRU_ScHARR 

Please feel free to get in touch with us.