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HS&DR specification document for call for production of rapid reviews and evidence syntheses - expression of interest 19/98



Closing date: 05 September 2019

Specification document

The HS&DR programme wishes to produce rapid reviews and evidence syntheses, which will be of immediate use to health and social care decision-makers in order to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of services including the delivery of those services.

The purpose of this call for expressions of interest is to identify suitable applicant teams or reviews units able to undertake batches of rapid reviews and evidence syntheses primarily of relevance to the remit of the HS&DR programme.
Whilst much of the output from these teams will be drawn from existing evidence, on occasion there may be a case for doing a certain amount of fieldwork in order to improve the usability of the final output.

Teams expressing an interest should demonstrate how they answer the following criteria:

  • Expertise in review methods
  • A track record in producing evidence syntheses and reviews in health and social care research topics.  Key skills will include information science and retrieval expertise, critical appraisal and knowledge/understanding of evidence sources.
  • Evidence of access to a network of experts in various health and social care service delivery and organisational disciplines (content expertise) as well as in health services and social care research. 
  • Established links to communities of practice in health and social care.
  • Familiarity with service issues and Department of Health and Social Care and NIHR policy and policies would be helpful
  • A track record in co-creation of research with evidence users
  • Responsiveness to changing demands of workplans and customer base


The aim of the reviews is to address knowledge gaps for the programme’s audiences in key areas spanning the full range of its remit. These will be areas of importance to the service, where there is a reasonable level of published evidence, but which might be dispersed or fragmented; this will include evidence from other sectors, countries and/or a broad range of literature. The finished products are designed to summarise key evidence for busy managers, commissioners of services, people with lived experience, and frontline practitioners. While evaluating the quality of information and strength of findings. The aim is for an authoritative single-source document, which provides simple top-line messages in complex areas

Each output will be a comprehensive review of literature with explicit search strategy, appropriate range of sources and critical assessment of quality of evidence and strength of findings. This will not be restricted to systematic reviews based solely on clinical trials, and the programme is not specifying methodology for synthesis; this will depend on the question, subject and nature of available evidence. Outputs will typically relate to complex health and social care service topics as diverse as the programme’s research users. 

In commissioning a centre with a critical mass of reviewers, we would expect there to be efficiencies in activity. As a rough guide, under present ad hoc commissioning arrangements, each review would take around six to nine months (usually with one dedicated research fellow or equivalent doing most of the core review work). We will be commissioning for expertise in reviewing complex literature and in general knowledge of health and social care service research and management topics. Subject experts will need to be co-opted by the centre for specific topics when required. We expect the appropriate engagement and involvement of patients and the public in the work of the evidence synthesis teams. Please refer to the National Standards for Public Involvement.

The annual throughput of activity from a successful team will depend on the size of the reviews required; therefore, an adequate core team needs to be demonstrably in place at the start of the contract. The current contract holders are at Exeter, York and Sheffield; their outputs can be viewed on the respective project pages. A joint review of lessons learned from the first round of evidence review team contracts can be accessed here. 

The programme is likely to commission at least two teams for four years at a maximum budget of £600,000 for the full term of the contract. The contracts will not be rolled over.  

Assessment process and timetable

Please ensure you have read the supporting document and expression of interest application guidance notes provided to support this call.

Expressions of interest will be considered by the programme director and a number of teams will be invited to submit a stage 2 application form to the HS&DR Funding Committee. Two to three representatives from each team submitting a stage 2 application form are likely to be invited to interview by the Funding Committee in mid/late February 2020.  

Expressions of interest must include:

  • Consideration of the criteria set out in this call for expressions of interest
  • A statement of the general approach to be adopted by the applicant team
  • A description of the centre or team; its overall capacity and ability to recruit/supervise/direct resources as needed
  • Brief CVs of the lead applicant and two others to be named as co-applicants should a stage 2 application be invited. The roles of these individuals and their level of input must also be stated
  • Arrangements for project management of the work and contract
  • Details of the resources required to undertake the work over the life of the contract

The on-line expression of interest application form should be completed and submitted by 1.00pm on Thursday 05 September 2019

Probity and handling conflicts of interest

A competing interest will include any financial or other relationship with, or interest in, an intervention or service or application to be reviewed.

Any competing interests will be adjudged against individual reviews. Any possible conflict of arising from a particular topic should be declared to the HS&DR programme at the time of scoping the review. 

Transparency agenda

In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this tender may be published in its entirety to the general public.