UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation research grants (UKOTRF)

Building an evidence-base for occupational therapy by supporting research into the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of occupation-focused interventions.

The United Kingdom Occupational Therapy Research Foundation (UKOTRF) is a division of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.

The UKOTRF supports research that will build the evidence-base for occupational therapy and increase research capacity within the profession. It has a role in raising awareness of the valuable contribution of occupation to people's health and wellbeing.

The UKOTRF aims to fulfil its mission of building an evidence-base in order to:

  • promote, maintain and restore health;
  • inform service design and delivery;
  • develop evidence-based occupational therapy practitioners; and
  • support the next generation of occupational therapy research leaders.

The four key goals of the UKOTRF are to:

  1. award research grants for projects to meet the identified research priorities of the profession
  2. develop occupational therapy research leaders
  3. build research capacity and capability to create a cadre of research-skilled occupational therapists
  4. obtain donations for grants to fund occupational therapy research

UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation research grants

The UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation (UKOTRF) invites research proposals to be submitted on an annual basis. The overall aim of funding support is to meet identified research priorities within the profession and to build research capacity and capability within occupational therapy. There are two main grant categories:

  • Research Priority Grant - to support a major research project that clearly addresses an identified professional research priority area
  • Research Career Development Grant - to support doctoral studies or post-doctoral activity undertaken within five years of completing a PhD or similar for occupational therapists who intend to pursue a research career pathway.

From time to time, other grant funding opportunities may be offered via the UKOTRF including those supported by external sponsors.

UKOTRF funded projects - are they making an impact?

A study undertaken by Mandy Sainty, Research and Development Manager at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, has explored the impact of eight completed research projects funded by the UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation. The assessment provided evidence of the impact of UKOTRF funded projects, but also identifies, in common with other studies, the inherent complexities of measuring impact: 

UKOTRF Advisory Group

The work of the UKOTRF is overseen by an Advisory Group, which provides expertise and guidance to facilitate the College in making the best decisions in investing in research projects.

The Advisory Group comprises six research-skilled individuals from within and outside the profession, who undertake some reviewing activity and meet once a year to shortlist and agree projects. Advisory Group meetings are chaired by the Chair of BA/RCOT Council.

Current Advisory Group Members

Dr Jennifer Wenborn - Senior Clinical Research Associate: Division of Psychiatry, University College London / R&D Department, North East London NHS Foundation Trust. Appointed to the Advisory Group 2015

"I have over 30 years’ experience of working with older people and people with dementia in a range of health and social care settings as an occupational therapy practitioner, manager, and educator, including ten years as an independent consultant. I’ve worked as a researcher at University College London / North East London NHS Foundation Trust UCL / NELFT for 11 years, developing and evaluating occupational therapy and psychosocial interventions for people with dementia, their family carers and staff.

My PhD study was a randomised controlled trial of an occupational therapy intervention to enhance activity provision for people with dementia residing in care homes. Currently, I manage the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded Valuing Active Life in Dementia (VALID) five year research programme for which I am a co-applicant. VALID aims to develop and evaluate a community occupational therapy intervention for people with dementia and their family carers.

I advise on several other research studies related to enhancing occupational performance for older people and people with dementia; and support occupational therapy colleagues within the Trust in developing evidence-based practice. As a previous recipient of funding from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists to support my own MSc and then PhD studies (pre UKOTRF days) I now look forward to contributing to the UKOTRF Advisory Group."

Dr Lynne Goodacre - Independent Practitioner. Appointed to the UKTORF Advisory Group 2016

Independent Practitioner. Appointed to the UKTORF Advisory Group 2016

Since qualifying as an occupational therapist I have worked in the NHS, voluntary sector, academia and am now working in independent practice supporting the personal development of health researchers and health professionals.

Having completed my PhD on a part-time basis I moved into academia where I developed research focused on peoples’ experiences of living with and managing rheumatic conditions. During this time I supervised Masters and Doctoral students, acted as an external examiner for PhDs and developed my own research. More recently I have worked at a strategic level to support research capability building across the NHS Trusts in the North West and led the Health Education England/NIHR Internship programme for the North.

I am passionate about the development and promotion of occupational therapy research and have previously Chaired the Editorial Board of BJOT and the Research and Development Board and been a member of Council.

Dr Rebecca Fisher - Stroke Association HRH The Princess Margaret Senior Lecturer, Division of Rehabilitation & Ageing, University of Nottingham. Appointed to the UKOTRF Advisory Group 2016.

Rebecca has nationally recognised expertise in the field of community stroke rehabilitation and on the topic of Early Supported Discharge. She has been leading change across the boundary between research and practice, working strategically within the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network and national NIHR CLAHRC stroke group. Rebecca leads Implementation research designed to find ways to ensure the evidence base informs the procurement, content and delivery of healthcare.

Dr Fisher's expertise is in the implementation and evaluation of complex interventions in real world settings. Current research studies include: Implementation of evidence based stroke rehabilitation in a hospital setting (NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands); Development of a biopsychosocial intervention for care-givers of stroke survivors (NIHR RfPB). Rebecca currently supervises four PhD students and research investigating provision of stroke care in rural settings, rehabilitation for severe stroke survivors, young carers of stroke survivors and commissioning of stroke services.

Professor Krysia Dziedzic - Arthritis Research UK Professor of Musculoskeletal Therapies, Keele University. Appointed to the UKOTRF Advisory Group 2016.

Krysia is the Arthritis Research UK Professor of Musculoskeletal Therapies and currently holds a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowship.

Krysia works as part of an interdisciplinary research team and leads the Implementation and Impact group at Keele in the Institute of Primary Care and Health Sciences, Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, UK. 

Krysia has been leading an NIHR funded study to see how best to deliver high quality, primary care for people with osteoarthritis presenting in general practice (MOSAICS). 
This formed the basis of a National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Fellowship (2013-2016).

Krysia is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, NIHR Health Research Mentor, British Health Professionals in Rheumatology Regional Lead for the West Midlands, and Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) Lead for the West Midlands Research Design Service.

Dr David Clarke – Associate Professor in Stroke Care, Academic Unit of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences. Appointed to the Advisory Group 2017.

David works within the Academic Unit of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation, part of the Institute of Health Sciences at the University of Leeds. He is an experienced qualitative researcher working primarily in the area of stroke rehabilitation.

David has a keen interest in how health professionals in stroke services understand and manage their day to day work in clinical practice. He has expertise in designing and conducting process evaluations as part of randomised controlled trials of complex rehabilitation interventions and in using ethnographic approaches in applied health research.

David has led or is leading on qualitative work in a number of NIHR funded studies. He was Chief Investigator for the NIHR funded ReAcT study which examined factors influencing therapy provision to meet clinical guideline recommendations in eight stroke units in England and led the process evaluation team for the Training Caregivers after Stroke (TRACS) trial. He has also conducted research examining the work of nurses in stroke rehabilitation teams. He is currently lead for the Yorkshire region for the NIHR Health Services and Delivery funded CREATE study which is using co-production methods to enable patients, carers and health professionals to collaborate in the design and implementation of interventions to increase activity for inpatient stroke survivors.

He is contributing to a large programme grant for applied health research examining ways to reduce sedentary behaviour in stroke survivors and an HTA funded trial of a home based exercise programme for frail older adults. David’s professional background is in nursing, he worked for ten years in medical a surgical and mental health settings before moving to work in higher education and research. 


Dr Emma Dures – Chartered Psychologist and Associate Professor of Rheumatology and Self-Management at the University of the West of England. Appointed to the Advisory Group 2017.

Emma is based in Academic Rheumatology at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, where she works as part of a multidisciplinary research team with a focus on outcomes important to patients and the provision of support for self-management.  

Emma's research interests include the measurement and self-management of fatigue in inflammatory arthritis, the concept of 'activation' (the skills, confidence, and knowledge that patients require to manage their own health), and the provision of psychological and self-management support in Rheumatology. The funders of this research include the Leverhulme Trust, Arthritis Research UK, and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).  

Emma is a member of the Scientific Sub-Committee of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Standing Committee of Health Professionals in Rheumatology, and a member of the Regional Advisory Committee for Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB), Southwest Region. 

More about UKOTRF

Research priorities

Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions

The effectiveness of occupation-focused interventions continues to be the major priority identified by occupational therapists for research activity. Establishing effectiveness, in terms of a measurable result that can inform future practice, is closely linked to:

  • the use of standardised assessments and outcome measures in the context of service provision; and
  • cost-effectiveness studies to support the commissioning of occupation focused services


Occupation, health and wellbeing

Targeted research activity should be used to increase our understanding of the causal relationship between occupation, health and wellbeing. This will enable occupational therapists to access the evidence needed to promote their unique skills and contribution to health and social care delivery.

Service delivery and organisation

Research is needed into the organisation and delivery of services, with a focus on workforce design and diversity, skills mix, demographic trends and population needs. The changing pattern of delivery of health and social care throughout the UK means that occupational therapists and support workers need evidence to support the relevance of occupation-focused interventions in an increasingly diverse range of environments. Whilst the integration of services within the community remains a key area for evaluation, research endeavours need to be responsive to new and emerging areas of practice.

Involvement of service users and carers

It is a priority for research into occupational therapy service provision that service users and their carers are involved at all stages of the research process. Such inclusion will enable research questions to be focused more clearly on aspects that directly address people's health and lifestyle needs. In terms of service redesign and delivery it is recognised that the users of research may be occupational therapists rather than service users.

The context of research priorities

It is clear that occupational therapy research will take place within a number of overarching contexts, and prime consideration must be given to the following aspects when developing research questions:

  • Gaps in the existing knowledge base can only be identified for research from a thorough literature search and systematic review of existing evidence
  • Government priority areas are the main drivers for much supported research activity
  • Occupational therapists should focus individual research endeavours within larger programmes of research, maintaining awareness that funders prefer multi-professional research

Current grant holders and project abstracts

Research Priority Grants

Research Career Development Grants

The Elizabeth Casson Trust Postdoctoral Award

UKOTRF Summaries of key findings

Funded project outputs demonstrate the value of investment in occupational therapy research and the contribution of the projects to building the evidence-base for occupational therapy practice.
A summary of key findings is provided below for each completed project. These include, where known, journal publication references.
All funded projects are required to provide a final project report, a hard copy of which will be placed in the College library for reference by members six months after the project has been signed off by the College.

Summaries of key findings

Completed projects are listed below by overarching topic, then alphabetically by title.

Mental health

Musculoskeletal Conditions


Neurological practice

UKOTRF Early Researcher Award

The UKOTRF Early Researcher Award is available to presenters at the RCOT Annual Conference.

If your oral paper is selected to be presented within the main RCOT conference then you may be eligible to be considered for the UKOTRF Early Researcher Award. You must be presenting on the research findings from your post-registration Masters or doctoral studies, or other first piece of ethically-approved research undertaken post-registration as an occupational therapist. This prestigious prize recognises excellence in research and presentation skills, and is highly valued by its recipients. Winners to date have commented on their delight at peer recognition of the value of their research and how being selected has reinforced their intention to continue to disseminate their research findings through conference presentation.

You can apply to be considered for the award via the on-line abstract submission process. To be eligible for consideration, you must be:

  • a current BAOT member
  • submitting the abstract yourself
  • undertaking the presentation yourself
  • presenting on your research findings

Judging is undertaken by members of the Research and Development Board and the Education and Research Team using a marking schedule designed to capture information about overall presentation skills, the strength of the methodology and implications of the findings. All presenters participating in the scheme receive written feedback on their presentation. The name of the award winner and their presentation topic will be published in OTnews.

Recipients of the Early Researcher Award to date:

  • Becky Field (2017): "Identifying influences on take-up of a community occupational therapy intervention for people with dementia and their family carers"
  • Natalie Jones (2016): "What are the experiences of stroke survivors with managing eating in the long-term?"
  • Clare Sugarman (2016): "The lived experience of parents whose children are deafblind: an occupational perspective"
  • Katie Hackett (2015): "Identifying participation barriers and key intervention targets for an autoimmune disease"
  • Jane Horne (2015): "Developing a New, Patient Reported, Confidence After Stroke Measure (CASM)"
  • Rachel Russell (2014): "Development of an occupation-focused process for modifying home environments"
  • Joanne Porter (2013): "Parental experiences of an occupational therapy parent education programme"
  • Lindsay Phillips (2012): "The meanings of art-making to informal carers of relatives with dementia"
  • Carol Coole (2011): "Concerns of employed patients with low back pain: a qualitative study"
  • Dr Helen Myers (2010): "Musculoskeletal problems in older adults: occupational therapy and the population iceberg"
  • Joanna Fletcher-Smith (2010): "An inter-rater reliability study of the Nottingham Stroke Dressing Assessment (NSDA)"


Other forms of funding:

The Constance Owens Trust and The Elizabeth Casson Trust are external grant giving bodies that offer financial support towards occupational therapists' research and CPD activities.

For further details on The Constance Owens Trust please contact: 

Download information about the support available from The Constance Owens Trust