Partners2 Research Programme

What is this research?

The PARTNERS2 research programme focuses on developing better ways of supporting people with severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar or other psychoses) within GP practices. Funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Health programme, it 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, Bangor University, the University of Manchester, and the University of Plymouth. You can read a summary here.

Why is this research important?

For many people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar, their GP is their only source of support for their mental health. In future this is likely to increase as secondary care services are streamlined. Some GPs are very good at supporting people with mental health problems while others are less so. Some people using GP-led mental health care don’t receive good support or make much progress with either their mental or physical health problems.

Since its beginning in March 2014, over the last seven years the PARTNERS2 programme has investigated whether the development of 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 have McPin been involved?

McPin have developed and delivered a public and patient involvement (PPI) programme across the study – collaborating with academic and clinical teams to work alongside people with lived experience to produce high quality mental health research. See a summary of our initial approach.

The study has several work streams, including a randomised controlled trial (RCT):

  • The study team 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 (see here for the write up). This has helped 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 (COS) 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. The protocol has been published and the results for the bipolar COS.
  • We developed a new system of care based upon reviewing recovery literature, interviews with policy leads and stakeholder workshops (see more details here). This has been delivered as part of a randomised controlled trial, designed to test how effective the care system is and find out whether this new system delivers better outcomes for people with schizophrenia, bipolar and other psychoses.

The original three Partners2 Lived Experience Advisory Panels (LEAPs) have met as one group to support the research trial. PPI outputs have included developing a website for the project, having a peer review paper about our experiences of PPI and co-production published, and developing a new questionnaire to collect specific COVID-19 shielding data. 

What are the next steps?

Follow-up data collection by the research team was completed in December 2020, with the RCT ending in February 2021. All data, both quantitative and qualitative, is currently being cleansed and analysed before the end of the programme in May 2021.

We are currently planning a final report, the submission of research articles and a number of dissemination activities, including a LEAP-led event. 

To learnt more about the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on data collection, see here:

The PARTNERS2 pandemic data collection challenge

Who do I contact for more information

For more information about this research programme, please email