Improvement Analytics Unit An innovative partnership between NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Health Foundation providing robust evaluation of complex changes in the NHS.


The Improvement Analytics Unit (IAU) is a unique partnership between  NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Health Foundation that evaluates complex local initiatives in health care in order to support learning and improvement.

We evaluate initiatives such as those being delivered as part of the sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). By providing rapid feedback to service leaders and decision-makers at both a local and national level, we help to identify what is working well and what might need to change in the future to improve outcomes.

Over the last decade, a number of national transformation programmes have been established to improve quality and efficiency in health care, often through the provision of more integrated care. The best analytical approaches to evaluate the impact of complex changes such as these are demanding to apply and the required capability is not always available in the NHS.

The Improvement Analytics Unit aims to fill this gap by:

  • providing robust evaluation of complex change to support the development of strong and effective health care systems 
  • identifying whether outcomes for patients have changed following the introduction of a new initiative and to identify, so far as possible, why
  • helping to spread the use of data analytics in the NHS for the purposes of quality improvement
  • strengthening the robustness of the body of evidence available to inform national policy development.  

Our approach

Robustly evaluating the impact of complex change often requires the use of a counterfactual control group. Counterfactual analysis relies on making a comparison between a group of patients who have experienced an intervention with a carefully matched control group who have not. We take a wide range of factors into account so that we can be sure that any differences observed between the two groups are likely to be the result of the intervention.

The team at the Improvement Analytics Unit are experts in the use of counterfactual analysis – one of the most rigorous ways to determine the real impact of interventions.

Supporting improvement

Our aim is to support learning and improvement through evaluation. 

Combining analysis from the Improvement Analytics Unit with local intelligence helps to guide the development of improvement on the ground. We know such improvement is complex and takes time. However along the way, the analysis can be used by those delivering change to bring valuable insights and to identify whether they need to alter their approach (‘course correct’) to improve outcomes.

More about the Improvement Analytics Unit


Improvement Analytics Unit - FAQs

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the Improvement Analytics Unit (IAU).

Newsletter feature

Improvement Analytics: a new resource in the improvement toolbox

30 June 2016

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IAU Statistical Analysis Protocols

The IAU statistical analysis protocols are intended to guide analytical processes. They includes the...


Improvement Analytics Unit publications

A collection of our Improvement Analytics Unit publications.


Arne Wolters is Acting Head of the Unit, with joint strategic oversight from Adam Steventon, the Health Foundation’s Director of Data Analytics, and Ming Tang, National Director Data and Analytics at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

For further information, or to register your interest in taking part in an evaluation, please get in contact with Arne Wolters.

Find out more about the Improvement Analytics Unit team

Latest content

Improvement Analytics Unit - FAQs

29 June 2016

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the Improvement Analytics Unit (IAU).

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We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

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