This is the second of two blogs I have written on turning ideas for improvement in health care into practice. In the first, I looked at how we can harness the power of people and place to improve care. Here, I want to focus on building capability in systems, processes and methodologies.

These thoughts come from my experience in working as a leadership and organisational development consultant for more than twenty years across a wide range of sectors, with a particular focus on health care over the last decade.

  1. As I commented in my first blog, we’re not lacking in great ideas to improve health and social care systems. However, in order to act on these ideas and really innovate, there does need to be a step change in the number of people who have been trained in quality improvement methodologies, and improvement and implementation science. We need people with the knowledge, power, skills and confidence to put these ideas into practice.
  2. There is an enormous need to educate many more people in ideas from the field of organisational development (OD), in particular those related to systems thinking. I am using a broad definition of OD here which includes, but is not limited to, the application of behavioural sciences to the organisation. By systems thinking, I mean focusing on the connections, relationships and interdependencies between various parts of a system. As we move inexorably towards bringing our health and social care systems together, this mindset will be vital in thinking about what’s best from the point of view of an individual accessing services, as well as for planning the needs of a particular population, and segments within it.
  3. There are numerous examples of good practice being developed all over the UK, but these are often not joined up, even when they relate to the same area of care. A straightforward mechanism needs to be developed to do this, and to ensure that good practice is shared and spread as quickly as possible around the country. Networks may well have a vital role to play here.
  4. The health and social care systems are complicated, even for those of us who work in and around them. Members of the public often struggle to navigate their way through the labyrinth. As a principle, the more we can all do to simplify processes, systems and pathways, and standardise (reduce variation) wherever it is appropriate to do so, the better.
  5. It is likely that health and social care professionals will need support in at least some of these areas to enable these ideas to be put into practice. Providing this support, and developing internal capacity and capability within the system, will benefit patients, staff, organisations and health and social care systems throughout the UK, and indeed beyond our borders.

I hope these ideas may be useful to others engaged in supporting the adoption, spread and sustainability of innovations and improvements in health care. Do you have any to add to the list? Please let me know in the comments below.

Andrew is a Leadership & Organisational Development Consultant,

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