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There are a large number of studies addressing the impact of continuing medical education (Davis et al. 1995) and clinical guidelines (Grimshaw & Russell 1993) on changing clinical practice, but comparatively little on the impact of purchasers of health care. There is some evidence that financial incentives and penalties can influence practice (Greco & Eisenberg 1993). It has been suggested that purchasers can play an important role in implementing research findings (Haines & Jones 1994). Indeed, the separation of purchasers and providers has been viewed as an opportunity to use knowledge about effectiveness to improve health services (Dunning et al. 1994). We report a study the aim of which was to explore the impact that a specific brief external intervention might have on a detailed aspect of clinical practice: the use of corticosteroids in preterm labour. The intervention was initiated by public health physicians on behalf of a Health Authority. It formed a part of the Getting Research Into Practice (GRIP) initiative in the old Oxford Health Region, UK. The administration of corticosteroids to mothers expected to deliver prematurely reduces neonatal mortality and morbidity (Crowley et al. 1990). The first trial which suggested that corticosteroids were effective in this role was published in 1972, and evidence from 12 trials was assembled in a systematic review published in January 1990 (Crowley et al. 1990). Despite the accumulating evidence, in 1991 many women delivering prematurely in the UK and elsewhere were not receiving corticosteroids (Anon 1992; Donaldson 1992). The apparent failure of obstetricians to make full use of this treatment has been cited as an example of the delayed implementation of research findings that can occur in clinical practice (Haines & Jones 1994; Enkin 1996).


Journal article


Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

Publication Date





73 - 79


audit; quality assurance