Research and evaluation of quality improvement in health care repeatedly shows that results fall short of expectations; promising interventions shown to be initially successful do not transfer to new settings, or are not sustained. Again and again contextual factors, changing over time or varying between settings, seem to frustrate efforts to improve quality.

Download Context for successful quality improvement.

Building on a series of thought pieces – published by the Health Foundation in Perspectives on context – this best evidence review combines the ideas of receptive and non-receptive contexts for change, with a psychological perspective and the proposition that social context is the key facilitator of quality improvement. The review also considers context at structural levels within the health care system:

  • macro – the system level
  • meso – the organisation level
  • micro – the clinical team level.

Crucially, the review considers how all of these factors combine to impact upon the success and sustainability of quality improvement efforts.

Additional resources

The authors have summarised all of the studies and reviews selected for their review. These summaries are available in the Summary of findings supplement.

Further reading

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