The What Works Scotland Evidence Bank is a knowledge service which co-ordinates and shares quality reviews of evidence in direct response to the needs of What Works Scotland issues.


Getting evidence into action is an essential part of the What Works Scotland programme for public service reform. As one way of making this happen, we are developing a What Works Scotland Evidence Bank: a knowledge service which will co-ordinate and share quality reviews of evidence in direct response to the needs of What Works Scotland issues. The Evidence Bank will also share learning about how evidence can be used to help reform public services and create an evidence resource for local and national public service improvement and reform.

The Evidence Bank builds on an evidence-to-action model developed by the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), which explored ways of supporting people delivering services to identify specific gaps in their knowledge and use evidence to help address them. See the briefing (PDF) about this service and the learning from it on the CRFR website.

Evidence bank projects

1. Evidence Review Shared Project – What Works Scotland, Health Scotland and Health Improvement Scotland

Using existing evidence is an important part of evidence-based action and key to public service reform. Health Scotland (HS), Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) and CRFR/What Works Scotland have developed different methods for synthesising evidence. HS and HIS methods come from the health sector systematic review field. CRFR’s methods (that have been brought into What Works Scotland) come from working with professionals in the children and families sector and focus on using evidence for action, which could be useful for HIS and HS moving into health and social care issues.


HS/HIS and What Works Scotland will explore and consider ways of developing their respective evidence review processes, with a view to providing appraised, accessible and action-oriented evidence reviews for health and social care professionals.


What are the most effective methods available to ensure the coordination of palliative care that are applicable to Scotland?

  • Phase one: Defining the review topic and identifying a review customer
  • Phase two: Scoping review- underway
  • Phase three: Review production
  • Phase four: Link to decision-making
  • Phase five: Learning and reflection

2. High Life Highland

poster advertising High Life Highland activity classes entitled Otago Exercise and saying 'gentle exercise to keep you fit, flexible and fabulous. Improve your strength, balance, flexibility AND have a good time!' Plus 'A Partnership between NHS Highland and High Life Highland' and booking details and costs per class -£2.90High Life Highland (HLH) worked in partnership with NHS Highland (NHSH) to implement an evidence-based exercise programme to support the reduction of falls in older adults (the Otago Exercise Programme). HLH adapted the Otago programme in pragmatic ways to suit local settings and resources. For example, the group exercises take place in community settings rather than participants’ homes. HLH  wanted to explore whether there was a financial or other case for rolling out the Otago Exercise Programme model to other older people’s care providers in NHS Highland.


  • To support High Life Highland to develop an evidence base to inform decision-making about the future implementation of the Otago exercise programme.
  • To capture evidence from this process to inform future evidence to action projects.

Research questions

  1. How is the Otago exercise programme currently being implemented in Highland? To what extent is current implementation supported by the evidence base?
  2. How is the intervention anticipated to contribute to improve outcomes for participants and NHS Highland?
  3. What needs to be in place for these benefits to be realised and what are the main risks?
  4. To what extent does the intervention contribute to improved outcomes for participants and NHS Highland?
  5. What are the implications of the findings for future implementation of the Otago exercise programme and the work of Highlife Highland and NHS Highland to reduce falls and promote the health and wellbeing of older people?
  6. What is the learning from this process for other organisations seeking to spread and scale up evidence based interventions and to get evidence into action?


The project was carried out in collaboration between High Life Highland and NHS Highland, What Works Scotland and the University of Highland and Islands and involved four phases of work.

  • Phase one: Project set up and critical appraisal of current implementation.
  • Phase two: Developing the theory of change and evaluation framework
  • Phase three: Data-gathering and preliminary analysis
  • Phase four: Analysis to decisions

Case study development

Learning was captured in a case study, focussing on wider lessons of adapting evidence-based programmes for local use.

3. Child poverty project with South Ayrshire Council

We worked with South Ayrshire Council to support evidence-informed decision-making in the areas of early intervention and prevention.

The project was focused on child poverty. It addressed:

  1. What are the causes of child poverty and what early trigger signs can indicate risk of poverty?
  2. During pregnancy and in the early years and primary school years:
    • What factors can mitigate the effects of child poverty?
    • What factors can prevent child poverty?


  • Phase one: Scoping report (completed) The scoping report was commented on by SA council leads and a peer reviewer.
  • Phase two: Literature review (completed) A full literature review was completed and presented to the South Ayrshire Prevention and Early Intervention Working Group. See the Evidence Review and Briefing
  • Phase three: Wider sharing and action planning; an event in March presented the review to a wider audience, identify gaps in services and help shape strategy.
  • Phase four: South Ayrshire leads integrate learning into council strategy (by end April 2017).
  • Phase five: Reflection and case study generation.(March-May 2017).
  • Phase six: Wider sharing with stakeholders interested in integrating evidence into strategy and action (June-December 2017).

See the reports:

4. What counts as ‘evidence’ in health versus social care? A literature review

The evidence review sought and examined an existing evidence base which looks at what is seen as ‘evidence’ and how different types of evidence are viewed across health and social care.

The scoping stage is completed and the output was discussed at the Evidence to Action working group in February 2017.

Evidence to action resources

All evidence reviews, briefing papers and other resources produced by the Evidence Bank are in our  our collection of evidence reviews.