Kate Woodhead RGN DMS provides an insight into quality improvement efforts during the pandemic and the important lessons learned.
She discusses how positive transformation can be embedded, as healthcare adjusts to a new ‘normal’, and argues that empowering staff and ensuring their recovery will be vital going forward.
The Tsunami in healthcare over the last year, caused by a novel virus, has had an enormous impact, as everyone working in it will know. The unprecedented volume of change which had to happen over a very short, acute and critical time, as the NHS began to deal with the pandemic, is now able to be reviewed, a year on. Many Trusts used the existing structures for quality improvement which they had in place and can now reflect on the service delivery changes which had to be made
Quality improvement or health and care improvement mean different things to different people. The Health Foundation who co-ordinate a group of ‘improvers’, describes a systematic approach which uses specific tools and techniques to improve quality, experience and outcomes. It is focused on making healthcare safe, effective, patientcentred, timely, efficient and equitable.1 All of these are what this author calls professional traits, and they are expected of everyone working in the service. A short survey of the ‘improvers community’ reported by the Health Foundation suggests that, during the crisis, the improvement role generally increased at the individual, team and organisational levels. It was used most for rapidly reviewing and improving processes and for engaging staff in change work. However, due to the crisis, there is a note of caution that many of the methods are focused around short-term goals, out of necessity, with methods used partially and flexibly. What was missing largely from the standard methodology was the application of systematic measurement and also the engagement of patients and carers, neither of which is in the least surprising, given the context. Nevertheless, if this continues, it has the potential for the efforts to be wasted and not provide any sustainability for the changes.2
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