Partners2 Research Programme

What is this research?

The PARTNERS2 research programme aims to develop better ways of supporting people with severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar or other psychoses) within GP practices. The project is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Health programme. The PARTNERS2 study was originally developed by the late Professor Helen Lester, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Birmingham.

The research programme involves the University of Warwick, the University of Birmingham, Lancaster University, London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Exeter, Swansea University, the University of Manchester and the University of Plymouth.

Why is this research important?

For many people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar, their GP is their only source of mental health support. In future this is likely to increase as secondary services are streamlined. Some GPs are very good at supporting people with mental health problems but others are less so. Some people using GP-led mental health care don’t get good support or make much progress with either their mental or physical health problems. A new system of collaborative care could mean that services can help people with bipolar, schizophrenia and other psychoses to lead longer, healthier and more satisfying lives.

How are McPin involved?

We are exploring what a new system of support within primary care could include and how much difference it could make to people who use mental health services. The study has several work programmes:

  • We have looked at both primary care mental health services and community mental health services (CMHTs) to find out who currently uses them and what their experiences are of them. This is helping us to work out what we might need to change in a new system of collaborative care. We also carried out a systematic review of collaborative care for people with severe mental illness.
  • We worked with several stakeholder groups to identify a core outcomes set for bipolar, for use in mental health research studies based within community settings. This involved focus groups, a Delphi process and a patient preference study.
  • We have developed a new system of care based upon reviewing recovery literature, interviews with policy leads and stakeholder workshops.
  • The new system of care was delivered within primary care in pilot form in three areas of the country. We collected and analysed data from people using the service and practitioners to find out how it was working. Following this pilot, we are now in the middle of the randomised controlled trial. This is taking place in three locations and is designed to test how effective the care system is and find out whether it delivers better outcomes for people with schizophrenia, bipolar and other psychoses.

McPin have developed and delivered a public and patient involvement (PPI) programme for the study – collaborating with academic teams to work alongside people with lived experience to produce high quality mental health research. We have produced a poster outlining our approach: Our PPI plan.

The original three Partners2 Lived Experience Advisory Panels currently meet as one group to support the research trial. Recent involvement includes developing a website for the project, writing a peer review papers about our experiences, piloting a new system for online data collection because of Covid-19, developing a new questionnaire for use in follow-up interviews about Covid-19, and planning dissemination activities as we move into the final year of the study.

How long will the project run?

The study started in March 2014 and will last 7 years. The study is now in its sixth year out of seven. Trial recruitment is now complete with 200 research participants in the study and follow-up data collection on-going.


The PARTNERS2 pandemic data collection challenge

Who do I contact for more information

For more information about this research programme, please email