Introducing our voucher scheme – and what it means for equality in health research

Spotlight – 16 January 2024
Here’s why we’ve decided to offer new volunteers £10 in recognition of their time and effort

In December 2023, we launched a significant new project at Our Future Health, designed to help more people join the UK’s largest health research programme.  

From that date, volunteers who fill in our online questionnaire and attend an appointment now receive an offer of a £10 voucher. The voucher is offered in recognition of the time and effort it takes to volunteer for Our Future Health.  

Volunteers can claim the voucher and spend it in places like supermarkets, high street shops, and online retailers. Or, they can choose instead to donate it to the Our Future Health charity. 

Crucially, we believe it will reduce barriers for people who may otherwise be less likely to take part in our programme, such as those from lower income groups. While we are proud to report that we already have a higher number of participants from lower socio-economic backgrounds than many previous research programmes, it’s an area where we are continually seeking improvement.  

The voucher and diversity

Our voucher scheme is the result of our commitment to building a resource that truly reflects the UK population.

It is vital that a diverse range of people take part in Our Future Health, so that new discoveries benefit everyone. This hasn’t always been the case in health research, where some groups have lacked representation. This includes people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; people with lower incomes; and people under the age of 40.

One barrier that prevents people from taking part in health research is expense. To fully participate in Our Future Health, our volunteers must attend an appointment with us. That means taking time out of their day to visit us, and likely paying for travel. The costs may be a barrier that hinders some people on lower incomes from taking part.

By offering a small voucher in recognition of people’s time and effort, we hope to lower a barrier and ultimately increase representation in health research.

The pilot

We ran a voucher pilot in the summer of 2023, designed to test the theory and discover whether a voucher scheme could represent value for money for our charity.

The pilot involved sending out roughly 2.1 million letters to members of the public, inviting them to take part in our programme. Some letters included information about the voucher scheme, while others did not. By comparing these two groups, we could see whether the voucher had an impact on the amount of people who respond to our invites.

We found that the voucher scheme had a significant effect on encouraging people to join Our Future Health. The response rate among people who were offered a voucher was 23% higher than those who were not. What’s more, those who received the offer were also more likely to complete all the necessary steps to become a full participant in Our Future Health, such as filling in our online questionnaire and attending an appointment.

Importantly, the vouchers had a greater impact among underrepresented groups of people. For example, based on our models, we calculated that for every 1,000 people from the most deprived areas who consent to join Our Future Health, 420 will become full participants if offered a voucher, compared to 320 if not offered a voucher.

The voucher provider

Following the voucher pilot, we made the decision to widen the scheme, so that more people could take the opportunity to join Our Future Health. 

Today, Our Future Health volunteers are already receiving their vouchers, and spending the money in places like supermarkets, high street shops, and online retailers.  

As the scheme progresses, we hope to report again on the role it is playing in helping underrepresented groups to take part in health research. 

Frequently asked questions about our voucher scheme

Q: How can I become eligible for a voucher? 
A: These vouchers will be offered to participants in their invitation letter. To become eligible for a voucher you must: 

– Sign-up to Our Future Health
– Attend your appointment, including agreeing to donate a blood sample
– Complete the health and lifestyle questionnaire

Q: How do I claim my voucher?
A: You will receive an email directing you to your Our Future Health dashboard. Here you will be able to choose to either claim the voucher or donate it to Our Future Health. If you choose to claim the voucher you will be directed to the Voucher Express site, where you can choose the voucher you would like from the list of available retailers.

Q: How long do I have to claim my voucher?
A: You will have 14 days to accept or donate the voucher. Any vouchers not claimed within this time period will automatically be donated and you will no longer be able to claim it.

Q: How long do I have to choose a retailer once I have claimed my voucher?
A: You will have 31 days to choose a retailer on the Voucher Express website. Any voucher not activated by selecting a retailer within this time period will automatically be donated and you will no longer be able to claim it.

Q: Where can I spend the voucher?
A: You can spend the voucher in places like supermarkets, high street shops and online retailers. Over 100 brands are available on Voucher Express. The full list can be found on the Voucher Express website.

Q: I don’t shop at the places my voucher can be used. Can I swap it?
A: These vouchers can be used with over 100 UK brands, so we hope that most participants will find them useful. Unfortunately we are not able to exchange them for a different type of voucher.

Q: Where can I find out more information about the vouchers?
A: By signing in to your Our Future Health account on the website, or by emailing