Rapid evaluation of service innovations in health and social care: key considerations

Judith Smith*, Jo Ellins, Christopher Sherlaw-Johnson, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, John Appleby, Stephen M. Morris, Jon Sussex, Naomi J. Fulop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This essay explores the emerging field of rapid evaluation in health and social care, drawing out the ways in which it is distinctive from or similar to other forms of applied research. It draws closely on the experience of two National Institute for Health and Care Research rapid service evaluation teams established in 2018, of which all authors of this essay are members. Reflection on the rapid evaluation teams’ body of work is used to highlight methodological and operational considerations for researchers, practitioners and policy-makers interested in the commissioning, conduct and application of rapid evaluations in health and social care.

The essay is organised according to the ‘evaluation pathway’, from project selection and scoping, stakeholder involvement, research methods and activity, through skills and team working to feedback and dissemination. Its conceptual framing draws on Riley et al.’s rapidity, responsiveness and relevance framework, proposing a fourth dimension of rigour.1 Novel insights include: the primacy of scoping thoroughly a rapid evaluation; the trade-offs to be made in respect of patient and community engagement and rapid working; the opportunities presented by virtual and mixed research methods; the particular challenges of supervising and leading multiple studies undertaken simultaneously; and the need for flexible and dynamic approaches to disseminating emerging findings in as close to real time. The essay concludes by setting out key lessons about how to conduct rapid evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages47
JournalHealth and Social Care Delivery Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023


  • Rapid evaluation
  • Evaluation
  • Health care evaluation
  • social care evaluation
  • Rapid evaluation methods
  • Evaluation research
  • Evaluation practice


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