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Research Themes

PenCLAHRC research falls under five main themes - Diagnostics and Stratified Medicine; Evidence for Policy and Practice; Healthy People, Healthy Environments; Mental Health and Dementia; and Person-Centred Care. Each theme has its own academic lead. A summary of the key aims of each theme and examples of associated projects are shown below. For a full list of projects, please view our Research and Projects page.

In keeping with our objectives and values, most projects involve partnership working across themes, as well as university departments, institutions and health service organisations.


Diagnostics and Stratified Medicine

Theme Lead: Prof Christopher Hyde (University of Exeter)


Accurate, timely and efficient diagnosis is essential to ensure patients receive effective and appropriate treatments. However, there is increasing recognition that current test evaluations fail to directly address the most important questions, and clinicians, patients and policy-makers often do not understand the limited evidence produced by tests.

Work within this theme aims to develop more effective diagnostic strategies, in particular to reduce unnecessary testing, improve decision-making in diagnostics and increase understanding of the available evidence. In addition, we aim to support the development of a culture within the health service that regards the explicit use of evidence in the planning of diagnostic services as normal business.

Examples of projects developed under this theme:


Evidence for Policy and Practice

Theme Lead: Professor Ken Stein (University of Exeter)


This Theme has two overarching aims:

  1. To synthesise and produce evidence about the effectiveness and cost of healthcare technologies and models of care to inform policy and practice, and to help develop capacity within the NHS to undertake this kind of work.

  2. To understand how this evidence is translated into practice in healthcare organisations by looking at organisational conditions and managerial activities.

Within this theme, we carry out systematic reviews into key issues for the NHS and develop decision-analytic and operational research models of healthcare services to predict the impact of change. As well as researching how best to achieve change, we also evaluate how innovations are put into practice. This theme includes work carried out by the Evidence Synthesis Team, PenCHORD and the Implementation Science Group.

Examples of projects developed under this theme:


Healthy People, Healthy Environments

Theme Lead: Professor Charles Abraham (University of Exeter)


Research and implementation within this theme focusses on individual, organisational, community and environmental change in order to sustainably enhance health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities and carbon emissions.

As the largest region in England, the South West provides a living laboratory for this research, with a population of 5.4 million distributed across urban, rural and coastal environments.

Examples of projects developed under this theme:


Mental Health and Dementia

Theme Lead: Professor Chris Dickens (University of Exeter)


The aims of this theme are to improve the mental health of people in the South West and beyond, and to improve care for people with dementia and the lives of those who care for them. Clinical and organisational research evidence is used to develop, test and implement complex interventions and organisational systems for people with (and at risk of) common mental health problems and dementia.

The development and implementation of services that overcome stigma, take account of individual circumstances, enhance access and ensure lasting change is supported by incorporating decision-makers, including people with mental health problems and dementia and their carers, at all stages of the research.

Examples of projects developed under this theme:


Person-Centred Care

Theme Leads: Professor Nicky Britten (University of Exeter) and Professor Richard Byng (Plymouth University)


Person-Centred Care seeks to improve the quality of interactions between patients, carers and medical practitioners, to promote shared decision making and ensure optimal outcomes for patients. Research within this theme aims to develop robust, evidence-based measures of patient experience and outcomes; produce tools for change, evaluation and measurement in patient-centred care; improve collaboration between organisations and individuals; and to continue to shift the culture of the NHS and universities towards a more person-centred approach to medical research.

Patient and practitioner experiences are used to define the research problems we investigate, as well as to develop and evaluate solutions and whilst research across all our themes is conducted in collaboration with our patient involvement group (PenPIG), engagement with members of the public is at the heart of this theme.

Examples of projects developed under this theme:

Upcoming Events


LKD Seminar: Staging evidence: the...

Room 2.13, South Cloisters, St Luke's campus, Exeter

Learning, Knowing, Doing Series Seminar Speaker: Kate Beckett, University of the West of England, Bristol Kate’s background...
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Creating Communications Seminar - ‘Reaching...

Exeter South Cloisters 3.06, Plymouth JBB MR8, Truro KSpa F10.

Speakers: Kirsty Heber-Smith and Tara Lamont Locations:  Exeter South Cloisters 3.06, Plymouth JBB MR8, Truro KSpa F10. Tara Lamont is deputy director of the NIHR Dissemination Centre  which promotes...
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Plymouth researchers are recruiting local smokers to major national study looking at reducing cigarette consumption

05 March 2018

A £1.8m study funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is looking for...
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Investigating the association between chronic heavy drinking and dementia

22 February 2018

PenCLAHRC researcher, Dr Iain Lang, has commented on a new study published in The Lancet Public...
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Partner In Focus - South West Academic Health Science Network

17 January 2018

As a partnership of NHS Trusts across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, plus the Universities of...
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Research Projects

How can schools best support parents' engagement in their children's learning?

Theme: Evidence for Policy and Practice

This project aims to address how schools can best engage parents in their children’s learning....
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What are the effects of 'robopets' on the health and wellbeing of residents in care homes? A systematic review of qualitative and quantitative evidence

Theme: Mental Health & Dementia

A systematic review that aims to create a state-of-knowledge synthesis on the impact of robopet-human...
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Research Projects