Hands holding paper people


The Peninsula Mental Health Research Initiative (PenMHRI) is part of a £30 million Mental Health Research Initiative launched by the NIHR and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to help tackle the existing gap between local needs and mental health research activity. Our programme aims to establish a South West Mental Health Research Programme to promote close working with mental health services and public collaborators to build research capacity in the region.
Funded for 3 years via a £750,000 NIHR grant, it’s our aim that the programme increases the capacity of the health care system to deliver high quality research directly relevant to service delivery in mental health, and to improve services by better use of evidence.
We want to work with partners including those with lived experience, practitioners and organisations to identify key areas of uncertainty which can be addressed either through research or by adapting existing practice to improve services. We anticipate that our programme staff will work with these partners to deliver research projects and will seek external funding to address major research questions.
An important part of the programme is the new Mental Health Associates strand, which offers an opportunity for people within the local health care system to develop their research and improvement skills during part-time secondments, where they will address important problems facing their own organisations.


Our aim is to do timely, relevant research with the people and places of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Our focus is on two broad populations:
  • Children and young people (aged under 25) with mental health needs
  • People with Mental Health needs whose needs exceed the capacity of primary care (for example due to complexity) but who are usually not considered to meet criteria for acceptance into secondary care services. People in this population are often referred to as falling into ‘The Gap’.


We are actively building relationships and connections with local mental health services, in recognition that relationships are the foundations for strong research partnerships.
We are learning that the current strains on people in the health and care system negatively impact their ability to get involved in research; often, there is willingness, but not time for research. Even though we are making funding available to buy out staff time, lack of individuals available to join in with research is an issue which we are sensitive to. We are working to address this through thinking creatively and deepening our understanding of the contexts of mental health care locally.


PenMHRI has the following objectives:
Objective 1: To work with Mental Health services and people with lived experience to identify and prioritise key evidence gaps
Objective 2: To produce high quality Mental Health research to serve populations with the highest needs
Objective 3: To increase the skills and capacity of staff within local services, the voluntary sector and universities to generate and use evidence
Objective 4: To work with partners to facilitate service improvement based on research evidence.
Objective 5
: To improve Mental Health outcomes within our region

PenARC Staff 

Professor Richard Byng  
Deputy Director of Penarc and Complex Care Theme Lead 
Dr Rebecca Hardwick 
Senior Research Fellow
Dr Rachel Hayes
Senior Research Fellow
Charlotte Hewlett
Research Manager
Charley Hobson-Merrett  
Research Fellow 
Georgia Jenkins 
Graduate Research Assistant 
Professor Stuart Logan
Director of PenARC and Methods For Research & Improvement Lead