What is already known in this area: • Although action lists are commonly used in medical education, very little is known about their effectiveness. WHAT THIS WORK ADDS: • Delegates attending a course designed to update primary healthcare professionals in evidence-based practice recorded an average of 4.7 actions of which 41% were completed or on target after 6 months. • Greater success was achieved by those who put time aside to complete the work, gave it sufficient priority and had resources available to complete the action. • This research establishes that success factors relevant in business are also key factors in medicine. SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH: • Using these findings, resources should be developed and tested to improve implementation of actions.