A review of the World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency response following the 2013-16 West African Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic acknowledged the need for a global rapid response capability that could prevent public health events from escalating by reducing morbidity and mortality and related financial and security consequences. 
As part of the UK government’s commitment to help build the capacities required for countries to prepare for and respond to public health threats and prevent them from becoming global health emergencies, the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST) was formed. The UK-PHRST is a consortium formed of Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with University of Oxford and King’s College London as academic partners. Funded by UK Aid from the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK-PHRST supports low- and middle-income countries’ ability to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks. The UK-PHRST combines the strengths and expertise of its consortium members to support countries through three key activity streams: Providing rapid response support to outbreaks; conducting innovative operational research to inform future initiatives; and building capacity to address disease outbreaks in target countries.
Since November 2016, it has responded to over ten requests from organisations such as WHO and GOARN to support responses to disease outbreaks including the ongoing ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo. It has more than six operational research projects ongoing in various countries, and has supported various capacity building activities across different countries.
Itad has been contracted to conduct a performance evaluation and ongoing independent monitoring to support programme delivery for the UK-PHRST. The purpose of this evaluation is to ensure that the UK-PHRST is having its intended impact by focusing on quality assurance and accountability and the facilitation of learning and adaptive management in order to improve programme decision-making and performance. As an external partner, our role is to provide a critical and constructive review of programme delivery, recommend improvements, evaluate results and complement the UK-PHRST internal monitoring processes.
We have brought together a strong team that combines extensive experience in managing and delivering robust, utilisation-focused evaluations, with significant expertise in global health security, health system strengthening, epidemiological surveillance systems, and building institutional effectiveness through partnerships and capacity building.
We have designed a utility-focused, theory-based, mixed-methods approach to investigate the quality and effectiveness of activities across each of UK-PHRST’s three core interventions: outbreak response, operational research and capacity building. The evaluation is exploring the ‘value added’ of this integrated triple mandate and consortium model: assessing operational strengths and weaknesses; examining key partnerships within the UK and with other key global health actors (such as the WHO and CDC); and assessing the value for money that the UK-PHRST model offers across the 3Es (economy, efficiency, effectiveness). In addition, and in line with a strategy testing approach, we are reviewing UK-PHRST’s M&E system and making recommendations for strengthening it.
Conclusions, implications and recommendations will be co-created in collaboration with UK-PHRST and its stakeholders.
Contact Giovanna Voltolina (email@example.com) if you would like to discuss this project.
 Bausch DG. West Africa 2013 Ebola: From Virus Outbreak to Humanitarian Crisis. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2017;411:63-92
Image Credit: Corporal Paul Shaw/MOD, DFID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)