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Why health and social care research is important

Experts from primary care, social care and public health discuss why research is important to their field of work.

In this video, you will hear three leading educators explain why research is important to the specific area of health and social care that they work in.

Primary Care

Professor Christian Mallen is Head of School of Medicine at Keele University as well as a Director of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research and Professor of General Practice.

More than 90% of contact with patients happens in primary care and community settings yet most research takes place in hospitals. Christian talks about why research is important to him as a GP and how it can support him in his work and the care he gives to his patients and their families.

Social Care

Cath Holmstrom is the Social Work Programme Director/Head of Social Work and Senior Lecturer at Keele University.

Social care and social work practice is focussed on achieving the best possible outcomes for service users and carers and research can help identify the best interventions or predict possible outcomes. In this video Cath talks about some of the common misconceptions there are around research in social care.

Please note that throughout this course, we primarily refer to ‘social care’ research rather than ‘social care and/or social work’ research for simplicity. The two areas have many overlaps but we also appreciate that there are differences too. For those not familiar with the difference between social care and social work, please see the explanation below:

Social work research is the application of research methods to the social work knowledge that practitioners use to solve problems they face in their professional practice. Social work theory is also used alongside research and implemented into practice. It not only guides social work practice but also frameworks and policies, for example, the Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance:–2. Social care research is more focussed on finding new knowledge that could lead to changes to social care and health treatments, policies or care, focusing more on the day to day services for people and for those that work in the wider care sector.

Public Health

Professor Zafar Iqbal is an Associate Medical Director at Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Public health policy making relies on evidence and evidence comes from research. When making decisions on public health, professionals need to know which evidence is strong and which is weak to make informed decisions for their populations. Professor Iqbal talks about this and also the Covid-19 pandemic from a public health and research point of view.


You may notice some similar themes on why research is important to each of these areas. Below are a few key points from the video:

  • Evidence comes from research and evidence is vital to allow health and social care professionals to make informed decisions and offer the best treatments and options to their patients, service users and communities
  • While hospitals are important, they are only one aspect of the health and care system. To ensure that all services provide the best treatment or service they can and that it is relevant for their communities, research needs to be conducted in parts of the health system.
  • Research isn’t just for academics. As health and social care professionals, many of you may already be practising research skills without realising such as gathering, understanding and evaluating evidence and reports from many different areas.
  • Research and knowledge of evidence can give you confidence in explaining to service users and colleagues why you have recommended a certain treatment, plan or process.

Why do you think research is or can be important to the area of health or social care that you work in? Please tell us in the comments below.

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