Partners2 Research Programme

What is this research?

The PARTNERS2 research programme aims to develop better ways of supporting people with severe mental illness (schizophrenia or bipolar) 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?

Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder only use General Practitioner (GP) services for their mental health support. In future this is likely to increase as secondary services are streamlined. Some GP’s are very good at supporting people with mental health problems, but others 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 offer services to enable people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to lead longer, healthier and more satisfying lives.


How are McPin involved?

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

  • We are looking at who currently uses mental health services, and their experiences, delivered by both primary care and community mental health services in order to learn what we might need to change in a new system of collaborative care. We are also carrying out a systematic review of collaborative care for people with severe mental illness.
  • We are working with several stakeholder groups to identify a core outcomes set for schizophrenia and bipolar for use in mental health research studies based within community settings. This involves focus groups, a Delphi process and a patient preference study.
  • We are developing a new system of care based upon reviewing recovery literature, interviews with policy leads and stakeholder workshops.
  • Once we have the new system of care in pilot format we will deliver it in three areas of the country within primary care and track how it works seeking feedback from people using the service and practitioners. We will change the system based upon feedback over a 12 month period.
  • Following the pilot of the new system of care we will carry out a randomised control trial in three locations to test how effective it is for delivering better outcomes for people with schizophrenia or bipolar.


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


The three Partners2 Lived Experience Advisory Panels continue to meet regularly to support the PARTNERS2 service and the research trial. Most recently the LEAPs have: helped to develop a new website for the project including videos and case studies; contributed to a presentation we delivered at the INVOLVE 2017 conference on patient and public involvement in research, held in London; and attended a programme wide development day looking at emerging findings from our development work.


How long will the project run?

The study started in March 2014 and will last 5 years. The study is in its fourth year out of five. We have completed the development work and are ready to start the trial phase of the study. We are delayed but recruitment in our three sites should progress shortly.


Who do I contact for more information

For more information about this research programme, please email: