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J Public Health Med. 1999 Mar;21(1):29-36.

Evidence-based policy-making in the NHS: exploring the interface between research and the commissioning process.

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Public Health Research and Resource Centre, University of Salford.



The UK National Health Service (NHS) R&D strategy acknowledges the importance of developing an NHS where practice and policy is more evidence-based. This paper is based on a qualitative study which aimed to identify factors which facilitate or impede evidence-based policy-making at a local level in the NHS.


The study involved a literature review and case studies of social research projects which were initiated by NHS health authority managers or general practitioner (GP) fundholders in one region of the NHS. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with lead policy-makers, GPs and researchers working on each of the case studies and analysis of project documentation.


An over-arching theme from the analysis was that of the complexity of R&D in purchasing. The two worlds of research and health services management often sit uncomfortably together. For this reason it was not possible to describe a 'blueprint' for successful R&D, although several important issues emerged. These include sharing an appropriate model for research utilization, the importance of relationships in shaping R&D, the importance of influence and commitment in facilitating evidence-based change, and the resourcing of R&D in purchasing.


These issues have important implications for the strategic development of R&D as well as for individual project application. Moving beyond the rhetoric of evidence-based policy-making is more likely if both policy-makers and researchers openly acknowledge this complexity and give due concern to the issues outlined.

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