Evidence reviews

A major challenge facing the NHS is to adopt the most effective, best value healthcare interventions and avoid wasting finite resources on those that have been shown to be ineffective. NIHR investment in systematic reviews helps to meet this challenge.

It is widely accepted that the findings of individual research studies are rarely sufficient to justify new treatments. Systematic reviews identify, evaluate, combine and summarise the findings of all relevant individual studies. When carried out well, systematic reviews provide decision makers with the best possible information about the effects of tests, treatments and other interventions used in health and social care.

The NIHR is making sure that our health service has access to the best possible evidence to inform decisions and choices by commissioning systematic reviews and by building capacity for their conduct and supporting the development of methods.

Systematic Reviews Programme

With an annual budget of around £13.6 million, the NIHR Systematic Reviews (SR) Programme supports:

The SR Programme also supports and commissions reviews that explicitly address key questions faced by front line professionals and by national NHS decision-making bodies and other policy customers in the NHS.

Each part of the programme works to ensure that the knowledge they produce is rigorous, accessible and can be used by professionals and policy makers to make informed decisions about the treatment and care the NHS provides.

Download the SR Programme leaflet

Cochrane Review Groups

Cochrane is the world’s largest organisation dedicated to producing and maintaining systematic reviews of the effects of healthcare interventions.

Cochrane reviews are valuable sources of information for those receiving care, as well as for decision-makers and researchers and there are now more than 6,500 full Cochrane reviews available in The Cochrane Library, covering tens of thousands of research studies, millions of patients and billions of pounds of investment.

We fund the infrastructure costs for 21 NIHR-funded Cochrane Review Groups (CRGS) based in academic or health institutions in the UK covering a wide range of areas of healthcare including dementia, depression, heart disease, oral health, palliative care, pregnancy and childbirth and schizophrenia. 

Worldwide more than 20,000 people are involved in 52 Cochrane Review Groups in over 100 countries. 

Health Technology Assessment Reviews

Health Technology Assessment Reviews (TARs) provide a reliable and rigorous evidence assessment of the benefits, harms and costs of particular healthcare treatments and tests for those who plan, provide or receive care in the NHS.

TAR reports are commissioned to meet the urgent needs of national NHS decision-making bodies and policy customers. TARs are most commonly produced to inform NICE Appraisal Committee guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments and procedures within the NHS in England and Wales. Each TAR is tailored to meet the individual policy customer’s needs in terms of independent evidence review, individual patient meta-data analysis, cost-effectiveness and economic modelling.