Assessing the Impact of the Health Technology Assessment Programme

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Background

The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme aims to fund high-quality research to meet the needs of those working in and using the NHS. As a publicly funded research programme, it is important that the HTA programme demonstrates the benefits that it brings to the public and society.

The National Institute for Health Research commissioned RAND Europe to assess the impact of the programme over the ten-year period from 2003 to 2013 and identify the benefits resulting from the research that the programme funded, focusing in particular on its impact on health policy, practice and patients.

Research can lead to benefits in a variety of ways. It can produce new ideas and train new researchers, allowing better research to be conducted in the future. It can change policy, for example by changing the types of treatments that are available on the NHS. This can then change the care that is delivered by doctors and nurses, which may result in cost savings for the NHS and better quality of treatment for patients. Where care is improved, this can improve the health of the country, benefitting both society and the economy.

Methodology

The methodology for this study consisted of two phases. In the first phase, the team looked at the impacts of the programme as whole through a bibliometric analysis of the publications resulting from HTA-funded research; interviews with a range of stakeholders from the NHS and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to industry and other HTA bodies internationally; and analysis of survey data asking researchers funded by the HTA programme about the outcomes and impacts of their work.

The second phase of the work focused on 12 projects funded by the HTA programme, looking at them in detail to understand not just the impact they had, but how that impact came about, and exploring impacts across a wide range of areas.

Goals

Across the study as a whole, the aim was to take a broad approach to looking at the impacts of research, with a particular focus on impacts on clinical practice and patient health, but also taking in impacts on the way research systems are run and structured (nationally and internationally), impacts on industry, and impacts on training, capacity building, and targeting of future research.

The results of this study include an overview of the range of benefits that have resulted from the research programme and the importance of the programme in improving health and benefitting society and the economy over the past ten years. We also identified the ways in which these benefits have come about, and ways in which the research programme could increase the benefit delivered from its research, providing recommendations to help ensure the best value for money from future investments in the programme.

Findings

The HTA programme primarily has the following impacts:

  • The programme has an important impact on patients and NHS care, primarily through the relationships it has with key policy-making organisations.
  • It supports research of high academic quality and plays an important role in supporting clinical research in the UK.
  • The programme has helped change attitudes to practical research among academics and others in the NHS and has contributed to the increasing use of evidence in NHS care.
  • Research from the programme is also widely used outside the UK.

Recommendations

In order to maintain and increase its impact, the programme should:

  • Provide targeted funding to help get its most important results into practice;
  • Provide more complete information on the cost of introducing new treatments;
  • Continue to maintain good relationships with researchers and policymakers and
  • Look to improve the monitoring of the impact of patient and public involvement in research and the transparency of how it makes funding decisions.

Project Team

Sue Guthrie
Steven Wooding
Alex Pollitt
Teresa Bienkowska-Gibbs
Catriona Manville
Anne Kirtley