Rapid evaluation of health and care services – shaping a sustainable solution for the post-COVID reset
25 February 2021
A new report published today by UCLPartners and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine sets out how the health and care system should prioritise and resource rapid service evaluations, based on lessons from the pandemic.
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an unprecedented level and pace of change in health and care services, with rapid implementation of new pathways and service models, coupled with a dramatic shift to digital and remote provision. This triggered an urgent need to understand whether these major changes were indeed positive changes, or potentially harmful. However, at the time of the first wave there was no pre-existing national approach to evaluating the effectiveness and impact of these changes.
This work revealed some great examples of individual and organisational leadership and innovation during the pandemic in response to the need for rapid evaluation at regional level. These included a local system approach to collectively define trials and diagnostics to evaluate and respond to national priorities on research, and a regional example of rapid development of the approach to service evaluation, allowing teams to gather information quickly and in a way that was meaningful and useful to stakeholders in real-time.
However, the work also highlights the absence of any pre-existing national programme to evaluate the changes in the NHS that were rapidly implemented at scale, and issues related to funding and capacity in the system. While the Beneficial Changes Network programme is a positive step that seeks to address this gap, integrating robust applied research with rapid service evaluation, bigger questions remain about how service evaluations should be prioritised, funded, resourced and conducted in order to better align with the needs of the system.