Nicholas Mays

Professor of Health Policy


I have diverse experience in the field of health policy. Before coming to the School I had worked in the National Health Service in England (with spells in public health and in representing consumers' interests), in academic health services research (at the Universities of Leicester and London (St Thomas' Hospital Medical School), and the Queen's University of Belfast), in the independent sector (with a think-tank, the King's Fund, where I was director of health services research) and as a civil servant (as a policy adviser with the New Zealand Treasury). I joined the School in May 2003 after almost five years in New Zealand. I maintain a direct involvement in health and wider social policy-making by continuing to provide periodic advice to the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Treasury.

I direct the Department of Health funded Policy Innovation Research Unit which is a collaboration between LSHTM, the London School of Economics, Imperial College and other leading health research institutes (

I am also co-editor with Prof Nick Black of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy (




I organise the Evidence-Based Public Health Policy and Practice module for students on the Doctor of Public Health Programme which is the School's professional doctorate in public health. I also teach at Masters level on the Health Policy, Process and Power, and Health Systems modules.

In 2012 I published the second edition of an Open University Press text book on the health policy making process co-authored with Kent Buse and Gill Walt called, Making health policy. I have published other methods texts including Synthesizing qualitative and quantitative evidence: a guide to methods with Cathy Pope and Jennie Popay in 2007, also published by Open University Press (  This builds on a project on research synthesis for policy and management decision-makers that reported as a free on-line supplement of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy on synthesis in July 2005.


I am interested both in the rigorous analysis of contemporary health policy issues (research 'for' policy) as well as research designed to improve understanding of how and why health and wider public policy is made and implemented in the way that it is (research 'on' policy).  My research 'on' the policy process includes an analysis of the policy making style under the Labour Government of Tony Blair, a case study of the formation of the NHS Plan 2000 ( and a study of major policy pilots in health and social care, and how they have been evaluated. 

My main research activity 'for' policy relates to directing the Department of Health funded Policy Research Unit in Policy Innovation Research (PIRU) which undertakes a mix of primary evaluation studies of new policies and policy pilots in the English NHS, together with advice on the development and evaluation of pilots and demonstration programmes.  The idea behind the Unit is to attempt to develop early stage engagement between researchers and policy makers in the development of policy innovations so that innovations are designed in ways that facilitate rigorous evaluation. 

PIRU is currently undertaking or has recently undertaken evaluations in England of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the National Cold Weather Plan, the General Practice Patient Choice Pilot, the Social Impact Bond Trailblazers, Direct Payment in Residential Care Pilots and Integrated Care Pioneers, as well as methodological work to improve the handling of selection bias in quasi-experimental evaluations using improved methods of matching.  The Unit is also studying the way in which evaluations of pilots are commissioned, designed and used in health and social care in England.

My main other recent involvement in research 'for' policy was as scientific coordinator of a Department of Health-funded programme of evaluation of the major reforms of the English NHS undertaken by the Labour Government from 2003 to 2010 which involved patient choice, provider competition through a mixed economy of provision and a new activity-based reimbursement system for hospital services. The programme extended from 2006 to 2013 ( and resulted in two supplements of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy ( a book published by the King's Fund entitled Understanding New Labour's market reforms of the English NHS (

In terms of health system comparisons, I am especially interested in the potential for comparative policy analysis of the divergence that has occurred between the NHS in the constituent parts of the United Kingdom since political devolution.  My most recent report was published by the Nuffield Trust in 2014 (

I was also involved in a research project funded by the NIHR looking at the impact of different patient choice policies in the four countries of the UK.

I have a longstanding interest in the role of primary health care in health systems and, in particular, the potential for primary care providers to manage patient demand and resources through schemes such as primary care budget holding and service commissioning. I  recently collaborated with colleagues from the Nuffield Trust (Judith Smith et al) on a NIHR-funded project on the commissioning of health services for people with long term conditions ( as well as work on primary care organisations (IPAs) in New Zealand and their relevance to English NHS clinical commissioning groups (

Research areas

  • Evaluation
  • Evidence use
  • Health care financing
  • Health care policy
  • Health policy
  • Health services
  • Health services research
  • Health systems
  • Implementation research
  • International comparisons
  • Mixed methods
  • Organisational research
  • Primary care
  • Research : policy relationship
  • Systematic reviews


  • History
  • Policy analysis
  • Political science
  • Social Policy


  • OECD members


  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom

Other interests

  • Health Policy Process
  • Health Sector Reform
  • Health Service Integration
  • Health System Performance
  • health reform
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