What is health and care research?

What is research?

Checking blood pressureResearch helps us increase our knowledge about human health and wellbeing.  This is so we can:

  • provide life changing treatments
  • diagnose diseases earlier or more accurately
  • prevent people from developing conditions
  • improve health and care for generations to come
  • ensure everyone has a better quality of life.

Overall, the aim is to find out whether what is being tested is better than what is currently available.  This can include therapies, medicines and services.

Although health professionals already know a great deal, there are still so many questions that need answers.  

Important discoveries so far

Research helps to answer provide those answers.  Here are some important research discoveries that shape our healthcare today:

  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928 and developed into a drug in the early 1940s. Today it’s used to treat a broad range of bacterial infections accounting for around 45% of the antibiotics prescribed in the NHS in England.
  • Research in the 1980s and 1990s showed that low doses of blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin and warfarin significantly reduced the number of heart attacks and strokes in people at risk.

Read more research discoveries.

What does it involve?

Sometimes healthcare research studies may be referred to as ‘clinical trials’.

There are lots of different types of research. Research usually involves examining and observing people with different conditions and sometimes comparing them with people who don't have the condition. It can also involve research on samples of blood or other tissues, or tests such as scans or X-rays.

Researchers can also analyse information in patient records, or the data from health and lifestyle surveys.

Read more about what research can involve on our 'why take part' page.

Online course about health and care research

A short online short course called “Improving healthcare through clinical research” is available if you want to know more about modern healthcare and the role of clinical research in it.

The course is focussed around a clinical trial and covers:

  • how clinical trials are designed
  • the role of the clinical research team
  • what the term ‘respect’ means in the context of clinical research
  • the safeguards that are in place to protect participants in health research
  • what modern healthcare would look like without the benefit of past clinical research.

Find out more about the course.