About evaluation

Evaluation can help you to consider what works, what doesn’t work and how things can be improved.

Definitions for evaluation have a common theme of judging or comparing the worth of something.

There are different types of evaluations. They can range from simple service evaluations to complex research projects. Each evaluation needs a different approach depending on the purpose of the evaluation, evidence base, stage of development, context, resources and timescales.

Evaluations can focus on implementation and learning (formative evaluation), how a service works (process evaluation) or whether it has worked (outcome or summative evaluation) – or all of these aspects over the lifecycle of a project.

Anyone can do an evaluation, from an integrated care board (ICB) planning on commissioning a new service to an innovator developing a new product.

Why do an evaluation?

There are many drivers supporting more evidence informed healthcare and embedding evaluation into development of new services and products.

…the role of evaluation is understood as an opportunity for organisational and individual learning, improving performance and accountability for results, and build our capacity for understanding why some programmes and initiatives work, and why others do not
Dr Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organisation (2013)

WHO Evaluation Practice Handbook

Evidence culture

An organisation’s ‘culture’ represents beliefs, values, practices and behaviour. It’s complex and can influence whether evaluations are completed and if an evidence informed approach is adopted.

Influencing the culture

A key enabler in the strengthening of an evidence and evaluation culture is good access to relevant evidence. This toolkit can help guide you towards this.

Public health departments in local authorities provide expert support in accessing and using evidence and contribute to a growing evidence culture. The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) is a key resource that provides an evidence-based overview of planning around local health and wellbeing priorities.

Embedding evidence culture in your services

You can use our evidence toolkit and this evaluation toolkit for:

1. Strategic planning, for example:

Completing a service evaluation:

  • For reviewing service provision against service objectives and success criteria
  • Assessing service outcomes to understand patient and system benefits in line with the service specification
  • Deciding priorities for improvement

Developing a commissioning intelligence model:

  • For securing a cross section of data types and sources to inform priority setting
  • Part of any needs assessment to determine health needs of the local population
  • Identifying gaps or deficits in quality, performance, value or outcomes
  • Confirming where quality, performance and outcomes are strong

Completing an evidence review:

  • Horizon scanning health service research that may influence both national policy and local strategy
  • Reviewing best practice evidence against current models of care

2. Procuring services, for example:

Conducting an evidence appraisal:

  • To inform design of services including service models and patient pathways
  • When considering options for change and available evidence to support a preferred option

Preparing service specifications and contract formats:

  • Place explicit requirements on providers to promote patient participation in research studies, deliver evidence-based clinical care and evaluate their service delivery
  • Ensuring that contracts are in place to hold providers to account

The Evaluation and Evidence toolkits go hand in hand. Using and generating evidence to inform decision making is vital to improving services and people’s lives.

About the toolkits