The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increased use of online consultation in general practice. For many patients this represents a more convenient and better experience in accessing appropriate and timely care. It also helps practices better manage demand and can be more efficient.
The NHS Long Term Plan commits to every patient having the right to be offered digital-first primary care by 2023/24. As a result, NHS England is supporting the availability of digital and online tools so that patients can easily access advice, support and treatment through the Digital First Primacy Care (DFPC) programme.
The DFPC programme looks to understand challenges and inefficiencies in existing care pathways to then work collaboratively to improve these through digital tools or pathway revision.
The DFPC team needed to ensure that this work and the tools it supported were underpinned by a consistent and high-quality approach to evaluation to support informed commissioning and funding and ensuring the best solutions are spread across services.
Eastern AHSN was asked by the DFPC programme to support them with developing an evaluation framework, logic model template and guidance to capture learning and outcomes that would also facilitate funding application review and knowledge exchange.
We adopted a collaborative and iterative approach to developing, embedding, and appraising the framework. This enabled us to develop a framework that was appropriate to the needs of the DFPC programme and general enough to be used in other programmes.
Having developed a framework that could be used by local systems and the regional team, we gathered feedback from stakeholders about their use. The insights gained enabled us to revise the framework to improve the ease of use, balance consistency and flexibility for local contexts, and to help partners to embed its use in their practice.
As a result of this work, the DFPC team embedded formal requirements for a logic model and evaluation plan (using the evaluation framework and guidance) into funding applications. This will support healthcare systems to effectively plan their projects and accompanying evaluations from the outset – ensuring that the regional team understands the impact of its investment, and helping local providers and commissioners make informed decisions about future investment and scale up. What’s more, building in use of the logic model as a requirement for funding applications can act as a lever for change to build capacity for evaluation.
The framework and case studies with completed logic models for funded projects are available on the FutureNHS East of England Digital Collaboration Hub to facilitate knowledge exchange between local health systems.
Eastern AHSN worked with the Digital First Primacy Care (DFPC) team at NHS England and Improvement East of England (EoE), colleagues at EoE Health Care Public Health team at Public Health England and staff in the integrated care systems (ICSs) from across our region for this work.