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Open Access Evidence to support delivery of effective health services: a responsive programme of rapid evidence synthesis

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Background
Two UK academic centres were commissioned to provide a responsive rapid evidence synthesis service. The service covered topics identified by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services & Delivery Research (NIHR HSDR) programme as priorities for the National Health Service or to inform research commissioning.

Aims and objectives
To describe and evaluate the review teams’ interactions with the evidence users the programme aimed to serve, primarily NHS clinicians, commissioners and managers. We particularly aim to highlight the barriers and facilitators to the impact that this type of programme may have on the uptake and use of research evidence by decision makers.
Methods
Narrative review of stakeholder interactions at different stages of the review process: prioritisation and defining scope; dealing with unexpected results; dissemination of findings; and measuring impact, illustrated by examples from the first three years of the service (2014–17).
Conclusions
Timely production of high-quality outputs was facilitated by: initial mapping and scoping of the available published evidence; early engagement with stakeholders to optimise their involvement within limited time and resources; and willingness to consider creative solutions and different ways of working to overcome problems encountered in specific projects.

Key messages
A responsive rapid evidence synthesis programme commissioned by the NIHR HSDR programme has addressed topics identified as priorities for the UK National Health Service (NHS).
Rapid production of high-quality outputs is facilitated by initial evidence mapping and topic scoping.
Involvement of stakeholders at key stages maximises value and potential for impact but the impact of evidence on decision making remains poorly documented.
Evidence synthesis programmes should seek the optimum balance between decision makers’ needs for rapid and efficient evidence synthesis and the time and resource requirements of rigorous systematic reviews.
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Keywords: evidence synthesis; health services research; rapid reviews; stakeholder involvement

Affiliations: 1: University of Sheffield, UK 2: University of York, UK 3: London School of Economics, UK

Appeared or available online: January 18, 2019

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