The PSSRU is one of the leading social care research groups, not just in the UK, but internationally. Since its establishment, PSSRU has had considerable impact on national social care policy in the UK and in a number of other countries.

The PSSRU’s mission is to conduct high quality research on social and health care to inform and influence policy, practice and theory.

PSSRU aims

  • To conduct research to help shape the development of social and health care systems, in the UK and internationally.
  • To develop and employ rigorous research methods from a multidisciplinary base.
  • To examine the performance and functioning of social and health care finance, organisation and delivery, with a particular emphasis on promoting efficiency and equity.
  • To conduct research that meets the best standards of research ethics and governance.
  • To involve service users, carers, commissioners, managers, practitioners and policy-makers in the research process as far as possible.
  • To keep people informed about the work we do through a variety of media.
  • To develop the research and related skills of PSSRU staff, students and visitors.

The PSSRU was established at the University of Kent at Canterbury in October 1974 by Professor Bleddyn Davies. In 1996, two additional branches of the PSSRU were established at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Manchester.

The PSSRU carries out policy analysis, research and consultancy in the UK and abroad. The Unit’s current research programme focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in social and health care, with particular emphasis on economic aspects of community care, residential and nursing home provision, social care markets and commissioning, long-term care finance, and mental health policy. The PSSRU has long had close and productive links with policy-makers in the UK and elsewhere.

PSSRU at Kent

The PSSRU at the University of Kent, directed (for a fixed term) by Dr Karen Jones, is based in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) in Canterbury. SSPSSR is recognised worldwide for producing excellent research and was ranked 2nd for research power, 3rd for research intensity and 5th for both research impact and research quality (GPA) by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Over the last ten years, PSSRU at Kent has been awarded over 170 new research grants, totalling around £22 million, and has been involved in a number of key policy and practice discussions. PSSRU at Kent was a founding member of the School for Social Care Research (SSCR) when it was set up in 2009, along with the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent. In early 2014 the University of Kent was awarded continued membership of SSCR. PSSRU at Kent produces the annual volumes of Unit Costs of Health and Social Care, which are widely used by policy-makers, providers and the research community.

Research funding

PSSRU continues to be successful in bidding for competitive funds. Funding for PSSRU’s research programmes comes from a variety of sources, including public bodies, charitable trusts and private corporations. Current funding organisations include the National Institute for Health Research, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Education, the Health Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council.

In July 2018 the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) launched a new set of 13 Policy Research Units to undertake research to inform decision-making by government and arms-length bodies.

The £65 million investment over five years will ensure that the government and arms-length bodies have the best possible information and evidence available when making policy decisions about health and social care.

The 13 new NIHR-funded units will provide both a long-term resource for policy research and a rapid-response service to provide evidence for emerging policy needs. The units, which are considered to be an exemplar of good practice in government, will also offer advice to policy makers and analysts on the evidence base and options for policy development.

PSSRU was successful in securing, in collaboration with other institutions, three of these Units: Quality, Safety and Outcomes of Health and Social Care (QSO); Adult Social Care (ASCRU) and Health and Social Care Systems and Commissioning (COMM),

PSSRU at Kent is leading the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Quality Safety and Outcomes of Health and Social Care (QSO), bringing together a multidisciplinary team of leading researchers from the University of Kent, University of Oxford, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Picker Institute Europe and Hull York Medical School. The team also includes two representatives with expertise around involving patients and the public in research.

The units will work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to determine priorities and provide evidence directly to the Secretary of State for Health, government departments and arms-length bodies, such as NHS England and Public Health England. The QSO Research Unit will help inform policies to promote high-quality health and social care.
PSSRU at Kent is working on the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Adult Social Care, led by the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CEPEC) at LSE, and the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Systems and Commissioning, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Partnerships and collaborative working

The PSSRU at Kent has a substantial number of links with other universities, policy-makers, research funding bodies, international groups and organisations, and academics. Many of these links have been developed through specific research projects and initiatives, as well as through the three NIHR -funded Policy Research Units.

The PSSRU is a partner in the NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR). The School for Social Care Research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, formally began work in May 2009 and was extended in 2014. The School was refreshed in 2018 and an extension for a further five-year period was confirmed in 2019.

Phase III of SSCR involves seven universities of which one is the University of Kent, representing PSSRU and Tizard.