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Identifying research topics
To identify the most important knowledge gaps in the NHS, the HTA programme:
- Consults directly with people and organisations
- Extracts research recommendations from high quality evidence syntheses
- Reconsiders important topics that have been previously considered by the programme
- Undertakes horizon scanning
Anyone can suggest a topic for research, but those specifically invited to make suggestions include service users, the Royal Colleges and specialist societies, NHS commissioners and managers, people involved in undertaking research and development, and those who apply the results.
We keep in touch with these groups in various ways, including electronic and postal communication, conference attendance, and focus groups.
Guidance issued by NICE and the outputs from the NHS Time-Limited Programmes are routinely scanned for research recommendations. Completed reviews in the Cochrane Library, which includes reviews from the HTA programme, are also systematically scanned to identify gaps in current knowledge.
Reconsideration of important topics
Sometimes, important topics do not receive sufficiently high priority to be commissioned in a particular year. Some high priority topics are not commissioned for various reasons, such as a lack of suitable proposals. These topics are reconsidered and their relative merit re-assessed.
Suggestions from this source identify important technologies that are likely to be available to the NHS within the next few years. These might be new technologies, or a change in indication or use of an existing technology. Technologies are identified through focused routine scanning and a specialty-based programme. We work together with the National Horizon Scanning Centre in this area.