Evaluation resources developed for innovators

13th September 2023

The evaluation hexagons of HI NENC’s Innovation Pathway are the ones that get me most excited.

I joined the Academic Health Science Network North East North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), now Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria (HI NENC), in January 2021 from Newcastle University’s Clinical Trials Unit, where I project managed data for four clinical trials.

This included Phase III and IV pharmaceutical trials – device trials and surgical trials – as well as those of service organisation and delivery, and of complex interventions aimed at behaviour change amongst professionals, patients and members of the public.

Day-to-day I managed patient information, attended monthly trial management group meetings, and produced and presented data quality and progress reports, which reported on trial progress and issues.

Internally, each trial team met weekly to discuss key milestones. I also worked closely with clinicians and industry partners across a diverse portfolio to understand their research and site research teams, locally and nationally.

With my background and experience, I know only too well the challenges of generating the right evidence. When it’s captured and used in the right way, evidence plays a key role in spreading solutions in the NHS.

That means evaluation, backed up with solid evidence is an essential part of quality improvement, and when it’s done well it can help to build knowledge, solve problems and inform future decision-making.

The challenges facing health and care services are well documented and innovation is central to addressing them. We need to explore new ways of working based on core needs and priorities. More of the same is not an option; we must encourage innovation.

However, innovation also needs evaluation. Without evaluative evidence, all we have are advocates and champions. Without evidence, we don’t know whether an innovation should be scaled up and spread.

All too often, innovation proceeds without the support and discipline of evaluation. Being able to show the impact of any potential solution and its applications, presents us with many exciting opportunities for the future.

I have worked on developing two new resources to support innovators with evaluation – an Evaluation Toolkit and an Evaluation Planning Form.

The Toolkit describes the vital role of evaluation and brings it to life through case studies and examples, as well as offering templates and support.

I would argue that planning is the most important part of an evaluation piece. The Evaluation Planning Form encourages innovators to think through and carefully plan each stage of their evaluation from the aims and objectives, methods of data collection, through to analysis and reporting, ensuring that each stage of their evaluation is carefully covered.

“As a previous care home manager and current Nurse undergraduate, I had insight into the systems and processes in place when attempting to implement a service improvement, however had no knowledge or understanding how to go about actually doing it.

“Evaluation wasn’t something that I had previously thought about and had absolutely no experience of. Working with Sean and the AHSN NENC has helped me to carefully plan an evaluation for my innovation thinking through the aims, objectives, key milestones, where to pilot my innovation for feedback, who to involve, and what methods to use. For example, surveys and interviews, and other things I wouldn’t have considered like analyzing and reporting on the evaluation.

“The Evaluation planning form was helpful to complete, with Sean acting as an expert, identifying things I may have missed or not previously thought about. I would highly recommend anyone who is looking to do an evaluation and utilise the tools Sean has created, to make it simple and easy to understand.” – Aisha Purvis, Chief Executive Officer, Sensmart


“This is a really excellent toolkit and I would recommend it without reservation. In my role as a research and knowledge exchange fellow and research methods consultant, too often I am asked to rescue evaluations which have gone wrong from lack of planning.

“Early use of this toolkit should avoid that and should result in evaluations of projects, which yield useful and meaningful data and help us deliver better healthcare. And don’t leave reading it till you’ve reached the evaluation stage. Consult it early and plan your evaluation as you plan your project to ensure the best outcomes” – Dr Jon Rees, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Sunderland

At HI NENC, we can help you with evidence generation, accessing real-world evaluation funding, and help you to plan and deliver an evaluation piece.

If you want to find out more about HI NENC’s role in supporting evaluation for innovators and access these resources, please contact our team here.