International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleQuality improvement – rival or ally of practice development?
Type of ArticleCritical Commentary
Author/sGavin Lavery
ReferenceVolume 6, Issue 1, Article 15
Date of PublicationMay 2016
Keywordspractice Development, quality improvement

The majority of nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and other healthcare staff possess a strong desire to provide the best possible care and experience for their patients. Unfortunately, this sometimes falls short of what was planned or intended (Institute of Medicine, 2001, p 23). The gap between care intended and care delivered can be explained by problems with systems and processes and/or people and culture. The narrowing of this gap is the focus of many strategies, methodologies and approaches.

Practice development is described as ‘an activity focused on developing people and practice for the ultimate purpose of achieving high-quality person-centred care’ and a ‘methodology that aims to achieve effective workplace cultures that are person-centred’ (Shaw, 2012; Manley et al., 2014). Practice development undoubtedly has a strong focus on people and culture and the potential to change processes and systems.

Another approach, widely referred to as quality improvement, aims to improve safety, effectiveness and person-centredness in healthcare using principles proven effective in other industries such as manufacturing – notably car manufacturing (Toyota), oil production, nuclear power and aviation. The fundamental principles of quality improvement for healthcare include making care reliable (every patient receiving care as intended every time, using well-designed processes) and reducing variation (agreeing a consistent way to provide care). At first glance this may appear to be an approach suited only to systems and processes. However, better processes, designed by those who use them, resulting in fewer errors and less re-working or working around problems, can reduce stress on staff, offer greater job satisfaction with improved morale and free up time to provide person-centred care. In his report, A Promise to Learn – a Commitment to Act (2013, p 24), Professor Don Berwick says:

‘Mastery of quality and patient safety sciences and practices should be part of initial preparation and lifelong education of all health care professionals including managers and executives. The NHS should become a learning organisation. Its leaders should create and support the capability for learning, and therefore change, at scale, within the NHS.’

This article by Gavin Lavery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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