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Promising innovations that are transforming the way that health services are provided will benefit from rapid evaluation to ensure their impact is fully and more quickly understood.

A new national Rapid Service Evaluation Centre, known as BRACE, has been launched following the award of £2 million funding over five years from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the largest national clinical research funder in Europe. The initiative is a partnership between the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) at the University of Birmingham, RAND Europe, a not-for-profit research organisation, the University of Cambridge and the charity National Voices.

The NHS across the country is developing and implementing new and innovative models of care and BRACE aims to work with the NHS to ensure that their impact is fully understood. All of the evaluations carried out by BRACE will aim to provide timely findings to the highest research standards that seek to address the concerns of NHS patients, staff and managers.

BRACE will be led by Professor Judith Smith, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director at the HSMC at the University of Birmingham.

Speaking about the new centre, Professor Smith says: “We believe that the work of BRACE will make a real difference to patients and staff of the NHS. Across the NHS, there is great interest in looking at current and new services and how they could be delivered in a way that improves people’s experiences of care and their overall health, while ensuring that the funding is used as efficiently as possible.

“Throughout the work of BRACE, we will listen to and involve people who plan, deliver and use health services. We want our evaluations to focus on the things that matter most to people working in and receiving care from the NHS. We will produce rigorous, timely and useful evidence about what works, and what doesn’t, which can inform the transformation of services and outcomes. Our evaluations will also support the sharing of learning and good practice by asking whether services that improve patient care and outcomes in one part of the country could be scaled up across the NHS.”

Jon Sussex, the Chief Economist at RAND Europe and health economics lead for BRACE, says: “The timing for BRACE could not be better. Local efforts to change health services are widespread within the NHS, but there is a pressing need to understand if and how these are working and to spread that knowledge nationally. BRACE will allow for the rapid evaluations of these services, with the findings shared in a timely and efficient manner across the NHS.”

Dr Alex Georgiadis, a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers for BRACE, says: “Central to the BRACE team approach is our understanding of and closeness to the health and care sectors, as well as the issues and concerns within the NHS. The team has experience conducting high-quality, theoretically sound and methodologically rigorous studies that have real practical implications for the roll-out of new services within the NHS.”

BRACE is one of two national Rapid Service Evaluation Centres funded in parallel by the NIHR. The other Centre – called RSET – is led by Professor Naomi Fulop at University College London, in partnership with the Nuffield Trust.

For more information please contact:
1. Dominic Benson, Deputy Director of Communications, University of Birmingham, on +44 0121 414 5134. Alternatively, contact the Press Office out of hours on +44 (0)7789 921165.

About the University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. Its research ideas are commercialised by a trading subsidiary, University of Birmingham Enterprise.

The Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) at the University of Birmingham is a leading UK centre for research, evaluation, teaching and professional development in health and social care, with over 20 core academic staff and a team of 20 research and teaching associates. HSMC has extensive networks with frontline NHS and social care, working closely with service users, clinical staff, managers and policy makers across its research, teaching and development activity. 

RAND Europe is a not-for-profit research organisation whose mission is to help improve policy and decision making through research and analysis.

RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge collaborate as the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR) and work together both for BRACE and on other health services research using strengths ranging from social sciences to statistics, clinical medicine, health economics, health services research and psychology. 

National Voices is the coalition of charities that stands for people being in control of their health and care. 

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

  • funds high quality research to improve health
  • trains and supports health researchers
  • provides world-class research facilities
  • works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
  • involves patients and the public at every step