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Research made simple: developing complex interventions
  1. Alison Rodriguez1,
  2. Joanna Smith1,
  3. David Barrett2
  1. 1 School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alison Rodriguez, School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK; a.m.rodriguez{at}

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In common with many other countries, population ageing, advancements in medical technology, changing disease profiles, the influence of lifestyle choices on health and increased patient expectations are driving health and social care provision in the UK. As the number of people living with one or more long-term conditions rises, interventions to support their health and well-being become increasingly complex. Nurses will not only be expected to deliver complex interventions but are in an ideal position to contribute to priority setting and the development and evaluation of interventions that meet patient needs. It is essential that complex interventions are based on the best available evidence and evaluated if they are to improve health outcomes. In this article we will provide an overview of complex interventions, using dignity therapy as an example, and outline the principles of developing a complex intervention.

What is a complex intervention?

The UK Medical Research Council (MRC) defines complex interventions as those with several interacting components.1 In addition, interventions can be thought of as complex if they are dependent on the behaviours of those delivering and receiving the intervention, there are a range of possible outcomes, or there is a need to tailor the intervention to different contexts and settings.1

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