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Evaluation of NIHR investment in Cochrane infrastructure and systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are the cornerstone of all new medical research and health policy ensuring that the best available evidence is used to inform decisions in health and care services. Since 1992 NIHR (formerly NHS Research & Development) has funded Cochrane UK’s systematic reviews infrastructure and supported systematic reviews across a number of programmes. NIHR currently spends approximately £6m a year supporting Cochrane UK and 21 UK Cochrane Review Groups out of 52 worldwide.

Given the changes in healthcare and needs of the NHS and policy makers, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health, requested an evaluation of the NIHR investment in Cochrane infrastructure and systematic reviews. An independent committee was formed to lead the evaluation, which includes Professor Jos Kleijnen (Chair), Professor Paul Garner, Dr Phil Alderson, Ms Sally Crowe, Dr Jane Aubin, and Professor John Cairns.

The evaluation considered the health and economic impact of Cochrane reviews from 2005-2014. Assessing the quantity, quality and impact of reviews on policy, practice and research, their relevance to the NHS, and the wider benefits, which contribute to the return on the NIHR investment.

The Evaluation Full Report and its appendices, along with a Cochrane formal response are provided as follows;

Professor Tom Walley addressed the evaluation report and provided NIHR recommendations for the future direction of Cochrane at the UK Cochrane Symposium in March 2017. A video of the plenary presentation and associated slides can be seen below.


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Any planned assessment of CRG performance which considers impact and Patient. Public Involvement (PPI) should consider how these aspects can be appropriately applied to topic areas beyond the clinical realm. In particular, the how impact of review topics that address the effects of an intervention or policy which has been delivered at population level and where the review question is designed to assess unintended health impacts. With respect to PPI, it would be helpful if this could be broadened to acknowledge work conducted, by review authors and/or CRGs, to engage groups or individuals, for example key stakeholders and evidence consumers, appropriate to the review question where involvement or engagement with patients or the general public would not be useful.

Hilary Thomson, 08 March 2017

One of the additional ways that Cochrane and NICE have collaborated is on identifying Cochrane Reviews that (1) highlight health and social interventions that might be particularly helpful in the UK context (some of which were included in the NICE publication, Eyes on Evidence) and (2) might represent disinvestment opportunities (these are listed in the Savings and Productivity section on the NICE website, Competing interest: this work is supported by funding from NICE to Queen's University Belfast.

Mike Clarke, 07 March 2017

When the evaluation report as well as the final response to that report do not mention the terms 'random errors' and 'Trial Sequential Analysis' and 'Bayesian' one must question the thoroughness of both. Best wishes, Christian Gluud The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group

Christian Gluud, 02 March 2017