Header image for the current page Evaluating the national NHS RightCare programme

Evaluating the national NHS RightCare programme

Following five years of delivery and a change of leadership, as part of the NHS England and NHS Improvement restructure, the national NHS RightCare programme needed an independent evaluation.

Focusing on the extent to which RightCare was achieving its objectives, how this was supported by the programme’s ‘theory of change’ and future potential changes, Arden & GEM’s service transformation experts designed a tailored evaluation approach.

A wide-ranging interview programme was delivered, with insights themed and detailed in a final project report, along with recommendations to further improve the programme.

The challenge

NHS RightCare is a national programme aimed at supporting healthcare systems to improve population health, reduce unwarranted variation and achieve sustainable finance. Following the restructure of NHS England and NHS Improvement, in 2019, NHS RightCare moved under the Improvement Directorate as one of a suite of national tools to support system-wide improvement.

To fully understand the extent to which the programme was achieving its overall objectives and to identify potential future changes in its support of local health and care systems – as they look to implement the NHS Long Term Plan – a programme evaluation was required. The evaluation needed to gain insight at a CCG, STP and ICS level into the activities, outputs and outcomes of the RightCare programme.

Having worked with the national RightCare team since its inception in 2015, Arden & GEM was tasked with undertaking an independent evaluation, drawing upon the service transformation team’s expertise in research methods and direct knowledge of the programme, both locally and nationally.

Our approach

The CSU developed an evaluation approach comprising three phases:

  1. a national survey to explore a broad range of views on the programme and components of the logic model that could be assessed more readily using quantitative methods
  2. interviews with organisational representatives throughout NHS England and NHS Improvement regions to explore how the improvement outputs relate to the system and methodology outcomes of the programme, and the links between activities, outputs and outcomes
  3. triangulation of the findings from phases one and two to consider the extent to which the programme’s current ‘theory of change’ helps to achieve its objectives.

Gathering insights
Interviews were undertaken with contacts from four regions and included a diverse range of participants from clinicians to commissioners to service redesign leaders. Feedback from the interviews was analysed and informed a number of thematic findings:

Client engagement
The Arden & GEM team worked directly with the National Programme Evaluation Lead at NHS England and NHS Improvement, using weekly update calls and regular highlight reports to keep the client informed of work completed, planned activity and project milestones. This regular contact and communication helped the project to respond flexibly to changes in scope, such as a pause in phase one (national survey) of the approach following a staff consultation in respect of NHS England and NHS Improvement becoming a single organisation.

The outcomes

A wide-ranging interview programme was delivered, with insights themed and detailed in a final project report, along with recommendations to further improve the programme.

Recommendations – which included focusing on ‘value’ rather than cost savings, using appropriate measures to capture potential opportunities, and providing timely up-to-date data – reflect the shift nationally to ensure an integrated toolset to support system-level improvement activities.

The final report informed the Improvement Directorate’s ongoing work with regions to develop the RightCare programme to support systems for future planning rounds.

"The team at Arden & GEM were a pleasure to work with. Colleagues understood our needs immediately and were professional and flexible."

Kelly Hughes, Evaluation Programme Manager at NHS England and NHS Improvement