Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

What are the aims of the programme?

This doctoral programme for Primary Care Clinicians aims to increase research capacity across contemporary primary care to create future research leaders who will develop innovative and evidence based practice and policy to improve population health and support the NHS.


Who are the consortium members?

The consortium is led by Queen Mary University of London, its members are all nine current members of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR)  and the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge. Students will typically be based in the institution of their primary supervisor.


How many PhDs will be funded?

Around five clinical PhDs per year for five years. The students will be hosted across 9 NIHR SPCR members and Cambridge.


How do I apply?

For more information view the relevant webpages on how to apply and an overview of available projects at consortium members. Please note: more projects will be added to this list over the next few weeks.

Applicants may also propose their own project in agreement with a supervisor at a member organisation.

We are aware that candidates may have had unequal opportunities for professional development, or have faced varied life challenges, up to the stage of application. The application form includes an optional section where applicants can add any additional information or contextual factors that they would like the panel to be aware of.


What is the deadline for applications?

The application process will open in September 2023. Applications need to be submitted by 12 noon Wednesday 20th December 2023. The shortlisting of candidates will take place in January 2024. Those who have been shortlisted will be interviewed on either the 5th or 6th February 2024. The interviews will take place in person, in Central Birmingham. 


What will happen if I am invited to interview?

Interviews will be conducted face to face and last around 30 minutes (exact duration to be provided on invitation to interview). There will be a panel of between 5 to 7 interviewers including two Patient and Public Involvement  and Engagement (PPIE) representatives, who are each allocated half the candidates. Other interviewers are  drawn from the academic primary care clinician staff (at different stages of career progression and from different clinical  professions) in the participating HEIs and the Programme Directors, Prof Steph Taylor and Prof Hazel Everitt.  Due to last minute changes in availability, it is not possible to offer candidates for interview a list of the names of interviewers in advance. Interviews commence with the candidates being asked to deliver a 5 minute presentation  with PowerPoint Slides  on  aspects of their  project/ training (exact instruction on the presentation duration to be provided on invitation to interview).  Every candidate is asked the same questions except ones specifically relating to their proposed project or questions of clarification. Candidates invited to interview are strongly advised to  have practice interviews in preparation for their interview.


When will I hear about the outcome of my application?

Applicants will be informed in January 2024 if they have been successful in securing an interview place. Shortlisted candidates will generally be informed of the results of the interviews within two weeks. Please Note: Successful candidates will be required to confirm their acceptance of an offer of a place on the programme within two weeks of being notified.


When will successful applicants start their PhD?

Students will start their PhD studentship in Autumn 2024 and will be expected to have commenced their PhD at the very latest by 25th December 2024. It is not possible to defer the PhD.


 I’m not quite sure I’m ready for a PhD yet, are there any schemes which might support me to get there?

The NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) runs a number of pre-doctoral schemes you might be interested in exploring, you can view some of these opportunities on our Useful links and resources page.


 What is the programme's vision on equality, diversity and inclusion?

Equality and diversity are core values underpinning the Programme. Increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of our supervisory pool will help to attract students from under-represented backgrounds, support the development of role models, and strengthen career trajectories in under-represented groups.


Who can be funded?

The funding is for clinicians of all disciplines working in UK NHS primary care, for example: practice nurses; health visitors; dentists, primary care pharmacists; optometrists working in primary care and general practitioners (NB this list is not exhaustive). Eligible clinicians will be on a list or register of recognised active clinicians held by their professional body.

Eligible primary care clinicians must be fully qualified in their area of practice in primary care and will be working largely or wholly in primary care (i.e. not in secondary care). Candidates should intend to continue their clinical careers in primary care.

Those who are still undergoing training in their area of practice in primary care, e.g. training as a GP or training as a practice nurse*, are not eligible until they have completed their training. Candidates who will definitely have completed their training by the time their doctorate is due to start are eligible, except where completion of training involves an exit examination. Such candidates must not apply until they have passed their exit exam and thereby completed their training.

Candidates who are enrolled on a Masters or other higher degree must have completed this before enrolling on their PhD, it is not possible to be enrolled on two higher degrees simultaneously on this programme. Candidates are not permitted to have another paid award during their PhD (such as a fellowship or seed corn/bridging award).

The remit of this scheme is to fund first time PhD studies for primary care clinicians and funding secondary doctorates is out of remit unless there are exceptional extenuating circumstances.

Please note: this programme isn't meant for individuals who have already secured MPhil funding and want to use this programme for the additional two years of doctoral funding, nor can it be used for people who have already registered for a PhD (funded or unfunded).

(*There are a variety of routes to train as a practice nurse)


What funding is available?

  • Three years of current full-time salary (pro rata if part time), please note for general practitioners and dentist’s salaries are capped at the BMA Pre-2003 Consultant salary rate (£77,769 – £100,810 FTE) -Pay scales for consultants in England ( 
  • Training expenses (circa £10k pa) (to include tuition fees, training costs and conference attendance etc)
  • Up to around £25K in research costs across the duration of doctorate
  • Institutional overheads and supervisory costs are not included in awards


Is it possible to study part -time and can I continue to do some clinical work whilst studying for my PhD?

Students can be full time or part time, it is the funder’s intention that their salary whilst doing their PhD is funded exclusively by the PhD scheme.  Full time fellows (i.e. students) are permitted to work up to one day per week in clinical practice whilst funded full time by the scheme across three years (so in this situation fellows will be supernumerary in their clinical role.) 

From April 2023 full time students who are General Practitioners may spend 0.4 WTE in clinical practice (as a supernumerary member of staff) in their first year moving to 0.2FTE in both years 2 and 3. Students who do this must have transitioned to 0.2 FTE by the start of their second year.  Students who choose to do this would still be expected to complete their PhD in 3 years and would receive funding for 3 years. This new policy applies to GPs only and does not apply to those in the first cohort of this doctorate.

Students wishing to pursue their PhD part-time will have their duration of funding extended pro rata, their salary reduced pro rata and a pro rata amount of supernumerary clinical time (if desired).  It will not be possible to do a part-time doctorate at a lower WTE than 0.6. It is not currently possible to study for a PhD part time and be paid to work in clinical practice in the remaining time.  

Our funders have explained: “I must confirm that we wouldn’t be able to offer any further flexibility at this time in terms of allowing fellows to be salaried pro rata by the programme and [by] general practices, potentially with an increased amount of time dedicated to clinical practice. I appreciate that this will be disappointing news; to put this decision in context, a core principle of the programmes is for fellows to be able to prioritise research during their PhD studies, hence why we require that their full salary derives from the programme and that they be supernumerary in their clinical practice. A shift for some fellows to e.g. a 60:40 salary split as proposed would be significant departure from this principle, and we have to be fair and consistent to all fellows across our programmes.”


Can I propose my own project?

There is the opportunity to propose your own research project. Students who devise their own doctoral projects are strongly advised to discuss their proposed studies with their proposed supervisors and must have agreement from their proposed primary supervisor upon submission of the application. Projects should be relevant to UK populations and/or the NHS and must be conducted in the UK.


What will be expected of me if I receive funding?

The application guidance includes a role description which gives further insights into what is expected. As we are required to monitor the successes and future career paths of our doctoral trainees, it is a requirement of accepting a post on the programme that PhD students agree to complete and return annual questionnaires. PhD students will receive these questionnaires whilst studying for their doctorates and for a few years following the award of their doctorate. Collecting this information will help us to improve the programme and support future doctoral opportunities for primary care clinicians. 


Who will be the supervisors?

Across the consortium there are currently approximately 340 potential supervisors. Whether applicants propose one of the available projects or propose their own project, they must have agreement from their proposed primary supervisor. Please note this will be checked with proposed supervisors before the interviews take place.

Wherever possible a students' second supervisor will be based in a different consortium member organisation or in a non-member organisation. The programme will provide supervision that crosses institutional boundaries to provide a supervisory team that fits the needs of the student and expands the diversity of the students and their research.

The programme will always pair less experienced supervisors with more experienced ones and, in some cases, students can have up to four supervisors to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of their supervisory pool.


What will the Programme offer students?

  • Students will join the SPCR Trainees community. More information on the benefits this provides can be read here
  • Students can benefit from the best training and academic opportunities across the 10 institutions
  • Students who have already been awarded their PhD through the programme will provide role models for new participants, offering mentoring, workshops and ongoing career support to more junior members of the cohort
  • Students will join peer learning groups. Established peer-learning groups will continue past the duration of the programme, providing a legacy of ongoing peer support
  • Students will have access to apply for follow-on, post-doctoral funding and seed-corn funding by being embedded in the SPCR (this only applies to students based at all nine current members of the NIHR SPCR, not those conducting their PhD at the University of Cambridge)
  • Students will be able to undertake a secondment in the academic department hosting the second supervisor, if they wish to, virtual attachments will also be available, where appropriate
  • In addition to their supervisors, all students will have a mentor. This will typically be a post-doctoral researcher who will always be from a different University to the student
  • There will be opportunities to network, join educational opportunities and attend events across the three NIHR Research Schools (School for Public Health Research, School for Social Care Research, School for Primary Care Research)


What research training will be available for doctoral students?

  • Bespoke research training programmes for Students will be structured and tailored to meet the needs of the individual and their project. The precise combination of training modules for each student will be decided by the student and their supervisory team and approved by the SPCR Academic Capacity Development Group.  
  • Doctoral students will take a selection of training modules provided by their host institution (or another member of the consortium) to ensure robust training in research methods, as required.
  • In addition, all Fellows will receive training in research integrity, ethics, research governance, maximising research impact, leadership skills and working with the media.
  • The SPCR will offer bespoke training on areas of expertise within the SCPR, such as: interrogating primary care research databases, the challenges and opportunities of primary care research, building a career in academic primary care, and how to influence practice and policy. 
  • The SPCR will record relevant local departmental presentations, seminars and workshops to build a library of research methods presentations given by experts which will be freely available to all 
  • PhD students can, as a group, express training need for other areas, i.e. in particular research related software, which will then be provided by the SPCR