1. Introduction


Improving quality is about making healthcare safe, effective, patient-centred, timely, efficient and equitable. In the history of the NHS, there has never been such a focus on improving the quality of health services.

This guide focuses on one important element of the quality agenda: quality improvement. It looks in particular at what are known as organisational or industrial 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 pproaches used to improve quality, including where they have come from, their underlying principles and their efficacy and applicability within the healthcare arena.

Who is this guide for?

This guide provides an overview of organisational or industrial approaches to quality improvement.

It is written for a general healthcare audience and will be most useful for those new to the field of quality improvement, or those wanting to be reminded of the key points.

Why focus on quality improvement?

The Health Foundation believes that there is a compelling case for applying organisational or industrial quality improvement approaches to healthcare. We think that all staff have a role to play in ensuring that healthcare services continue to improve.

At present, the evidence is clear that healthcare is not always safe and can lead to poor patient experience and outcomes. 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 within the NHS, supported by initiatives such as quality accounts and the Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) payment framework.