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'Finding research that answers questions of importance to CCGs can be a challenge'

Date: 23 March 2018

Category: Commissioning

Researchers looking at laptop

The NIHR Dissemination Centre’s recent Highlight on Evidence for Commissioners really chimed with me and my experience over the past couple of years in supporting my commissioning colleagues to find, generate and use evidence of all types in the Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) decision making processes. 

Commissioners utilise a range of evidence, of which research evidence is only one element. However, actually finding research evidence that answers the questions of importance to CCGs can be a challenge. Commissioners need evidence that can support complex transformation programmes and to inform best use of resources for their local populations in challenging financial circumstances. They are increasingly commissioning on a wider scale as CCGs work together with local partners across the health and care system.

Barriers to overcome

However, even when relevant research evidence is available, there are barriers to accessing, interpreting, summarising and synthesising it with other types of evidence. This is a skill, and like any other, it isn’t something that can just be picked up without training and ongoing support.

It is also important that there is an organisational culture of enquiry where evidence is valued. From my experience last year of training commissioning staff in my CCG about finding and using evidence (in conjunction with library and public health colleagues) there isn’t any systemic lack of interest in knowing what the evidence says. It’s more the practicalities of doing so in a fast paced world and finding pragmatic solutions, that we need to work on. The idea of knowledge mobilisation and ‘trusted critical friends’ are therefore powerful.

The way forward

There is still more to be done on understanding each other’s worlds, with commissioners and researchers working together for mutual benefit. We in CCGs need to take advantage of the opportunities to feed into regional and national research priority setting exercises to influence the research that the NIHR commissions. We also need to work in partnership with our local academic colleagues so that we are helping them to do real-world, timely research that we can then benefit from.  

In turn, researchers need to talk with us about our key commissioning challenges to inform the research they do. They can also help us by presenting their research findings in more user friendly formats that can sit alongside peer reviewed publications. We need to know what the evidence says, what it doesn’t say, where the gaps are, and what we should be focussing on for maximum impact for patients.     

Whether you are a commissioner or researcher, the NIHR Dissemination Centre’s Highlight is a good place to start!

  • Summary:

    Rachel Illingworth, Head of Research, Evaluation and Evidence at Nottingham City CCG discusses the barriers to overcome between research and commissioning. 

About the author

Rachel Illingworth

Head of Research, Evaluation and Evidence, Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group

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