In association with

  • West of England Academic Health Science Network

What is 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 merit or worth of something.

“A study in which research procedures are used in a systematic way to judge the quality or worth of a service or intervention, providing evidence that can be used to improve it” West of England Evaluation Strategy Group, 2013.

The spectrum

Evaluation can range from being very simple service evaluations to complex evaluative research projects. Each service will require a different approach depending on the purpose of the evaluation; evidence base, stage of development, context of the service; and the resources and timescales for the evaluation.

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

The drivers

There are many drivers supporting a more evidence informed commissioning environment and embedding evaluation into commissioning processes. This includes key policy drivers such as the NHS Five Year Forward View and enablers such as the NHS Standard Contract:

“The Provider must continually review and evaluate the Services, must implement Lessons Learned from those reviews and evaluations” (pg 7, 2015/16 NHS Standard Contract – Service Conditions).

Top Tip

Ensure that the evaluation is pragmatic and proportionate to your needs, generating useful evidence that you can use to inform decision making.

While evaluation comes in many shapes and sizes, its key purpose is to help us to develop a deeper understanding of how best to improve health care

Health Foundation, 2015

The role of evaluation is understood as an opportunity for organizational 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. (WHO Evaluation Practice Handbook)

Dr Margaret Chan
Director General, World Health Organisation (2013)

“Purpose of Evaluation research as informing the development of policy and practice” (Nick Tilley, 2000)

Nick Tilley