In order to understand if something is working or not it is necessary to evaluate it.  Evaluation can provide decision makers with information about whether or not to continue an activity or service, or whether or not to change it.  Evaluation also informs us what works but also why and how; enabling lessons learned for the spread of successful innovations and the adaption or development of new ones.

There are a number of methodological approaches to evaluation in real world settings and the Innovation Agency advocate the use of the approach set out in the Health Foundation’s guide to evaluation

The Innovation Agency can help to signpost you to evaluation support through its understanding of the sources of evaluation expertise hosted within our partner organisations. If you would like to access this support please email

You are invited to review the tools and techniques on this PIP resource pages which can help you to understand more about evaluation.  If you are interested in further formal study from one of our educational partners we have mapped out current academic offers here for access to accredited modules relating to evaluation which you can find in this section.

Develop an approach to evaluation

Using evaluation in assessing and improving innovation and new models of care are important, especially as the fiscal environment demands interventions that deliver effective and efficient patient benefit. In order to commission something we need to know enough about how it works on a range of levels – we may know that it works in research environment, but not how that translates to a real-world setting.  However, it is not always easy to know where to begin, if you will be supported by your organisation, and how to go about developing an evaluation. 

It is useful to understand the different types of evaluation so that you can match the methods to your question, in brief the different types include:

Summative – a summative evaluation provides information on the overall effect on an intervention, in particular at the end of the interventions against stated outputs or goals

Formative – a formative evaluation uses data collected to iteratively design or shape an intervention and to modify it in real time to improve it.

Rapid Cycle – rapid cycle evaluation uses a formative approach, with stated desired goals or outputs but with an open approach to how the goals or outputs might be achieved.  This allows people might innovate with their interventions to achieve improvements.

Developmental – a developmental evaluation is well suited to complex and changing environments and employs iterative reflective cycles where assumptions are revised over time and goals or outputs changed.  This type of evaluation enables people to try out new ideas, understand consequences and aid in understanding of emergent processes and outcomes as they occur. 

The Innovation Agency recommends an approach to evaluation that has been developed by the Health Foundation. However, there are lots of ways to evaluate health and care systems and models. Below is range of evaluation tools that you may also find useful:

Learn more about evaluation

The NHS R&D Forum Primary Care and Commissioning Working Group in collaboration with Research Managers from other organisations has developed a Research, Evaluation and Evidence Guide for Commissioners’. It is an introductory practical guide to support commissioners with the research, evaluation and evidence agendas, with signposting to further resources.

Find out more about the NHS Research and Development (R&D) Forum.

If you are interested in reading more about this topic, the library services at Lancashire Care have pulled together a comprehensive literature review which you can find below:

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