Primary Health Care Research and Development


Barriers and opportunities to developing research capacity in primary care trusts: the views of staff attached to a primary care trust

Roger A Harrison a1c1
a1 Public Health Directorate, Bolton Primary Care Trust and Evidence for Population Health Unit, University of Manchester, Bolton, UK

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In the UK, the Department of Health recognizes the importance of research activity to improve patient care, but the amount of research activity relating to primary care is scant. Few have considered managerial and organizational aspects relating to developing research capacity in primary care and none have examined this from the perspective of organizations responsible for managing primary care at a local level. Yet these organizations have a critical role in increasing the amount of appropriate health services research and developing a research culture. A qualitative analysis of focus group workshops was performed to identify issues associated with developing research capacity within a primary care trust (PCT) covering a single local authority borough in England. All staff attached to the PCT were invited to attend facilitator-led focus groups and asked to consider from an individual and organizational perspective: What will enable them to increase the use of and participation in research? What barriers exist? What opportunities exist or could exist to develop this in the PCT? Themes were identified using content analysis based on written records from the focus groups. Issues relating to developing research capacity were grouped into the following categories: What is research? Training; Resources; Managerial; and Organizational issues. Research was not seen as an integral component of the daily or routine work of most people in a health care organization. Managerial and organizational issues were a considerable barrier to developing research capacity. Lack of appreciation and support for research by managers and lack of structures to facilitate research within the organization prevented research capacity being developed. Primary care management organizations need to work with service managers to encourage the incorporation of research activity into the routine work of staff. Greater dialogue is needed between individuals, service managers and academics to ensure that appropriate research is carried out to support the organization in meeting its explicit objectives. More work is needed to understand the perceptions of research from a managers’ perspective and to develop constructive ways to gain their support for a research agenda.

(Published Online October 31 2006)

Key Words: primary care; public health; research and development; research capacity; training.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Roger Harrison, Public Health Directorate, Bolton PCT, St Peters House, Silverwell Street, Bolton BL1 1PP, UK. Email: