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Introduction to the development of complex interventions
  1. Sarah Brewster1,
  2. Richard Holt2,
  3. Hermione Price3
  1. 1 Research and Development, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton Division of Human Development and Health, Southampton, UK
  3. 3 West Hampshire Community Diabetes Service, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Brewster, Research and Development, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK; sarah.brewster{at}


Healthcare interventions are complex, but have the potential to deliver more efficient, cost-effective care and improved health outcomes. Careful attention must be paid to their early planning and development to minimise research waste or interventions that fail to deliver what they set out to achieve. The Medical Research Council provides guidance to help intervention developers, encouraging an explicit and iterative approach. This article describes the Medical Research Council’s guidance and introduces two frequently used tools that further support the process of intervention design.

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  • Contributors SB reviewed the literature, wrote the first draft of the article, edited the article and submitted it. HP and RH reviewed the first draft, provided feedback and read subsequent versions of the original article until a final version was agreed.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.