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Quality improvement made simple in health and social care

Improving quality is about making healthcare safe, effective, person-centred, timely, efficient and equitable.

This blog focuses on one important element of the quality agenda: quality improvement. It looks in particular at what are known as organisational approaches to quality improvement. These aim to bring about a measurable improvement by applying specific methods within a healthcare setting.

This is not a ‘how to’ guide. Instead, it offers a clear explanation of some common approaches used to improve quality

Why focus on quality improvement?

There is a compelling case for applying organisational quality improvement approaches to healthcare.

  1. all staff have a role to play in ensuring that their service continue to improve. At present, the evidence is clear that healthcare is not always safe and can lead to poor customer/service user experience and outcomes.
  2. at the same time, the economic downturn means an end to year-on-year financial increases. Healthcare services are being challenged to respond to this not through indiscriminate cuts, but by improving efficiency, driving up quality and reducing levels of harm. Improving the quality of services is also a key requirement by the CQC.

The terms ‘quality’ and ‘quality improvement’ mean different things to different people in different circumstances.

What is quality? Within healthcare, there is no universally accepted definition of ‘quality’. However, the following definition is often used: [quality is] the degree to which health and social care services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.

The dimensions of quality

Safe – Avoiding harm to patients from care that is intended to help them.

Timely –  Reducing waits and sometimes harmful delays.

Effective –  Providing services based on evidence and which produce a clear benefit.

Efficient – Avoiding waste.

Person centred – Establishing a partnership between practitioners and patients to ensure care respects patients’ needs and preferences.

Equitable – Providing care that does not vary in quality because of a person’s characteristics

Therefore, health and social care leaders / managers need to actively consider these six dimensions when setting their priorities for improvement.

Often the dimensions are complementary and work together. However, there can sometimes be tensions between them that will need to be balanced. It is also important to take into account different stakeholders’ views about what they feel matters and what the priority areas of focus should be within an organisation.

Model for improvement

This is an approach to continuous improvement where changes are tested in small cycles that involves planning, doing, studying, acting (PDSA), before returning to planning, and so on. These cycles are linked with three key questions.

  1. ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’
  2. ‘How will we know that a change is an improvement?’
  3. ‘What changes can we make that will result in improvement?’

Each cycle starts with hunches, theories and ideas and helps them evolve into knowledge that can inform action and, ultimately, produce positive outcomes.

To finalise this is just one method that can be used to improve quality. Having a plan and implementing it is fundamental to improving things. So if things need to be improved do not do nothing as nothing will change.

Here at DJD Social Care we help and support many of our clients using the above principles with a positive outcome. Let us know if we can help you.

Want to know how we can help your care service?