Working with strategic health authorities This programme supported projects by giving them access to specialist improvement knowledge and helping them to build project management and quality improvement capability

This programme is closed for applications.

  • Programme created partnerships with four strategic health authorities (SHAs) to improve patient safety between 2009 and 2012.
  • The four SHAs were: NHS South Central, NHS South West, NHS North West, NHS North East.
  • Projects covered a wide range of safety improvements in different settings, including hospitals, GP practices, community hospitals and community nursing teams.

The programme worked with the SHA teams to support the setting up and running of projects, including giving them access to specialist improvement knowledge and helping them to build project management and quality improvement capability.

Clinical areas included:

  • drug safety
  • reducing deaths from venous thromboembolism
  • safer surgery
  • the treatment of deteriorating patients
  • improving safety in primary care.


Learning that emerged from the programme included:


  • Set realistic and measurable goals and ensure the burden of data collection doesn't outweigh the benefits of improvement.
  • Team briefings and on-ward visual reminders are effective ways of raising awareness and keeping patient safety in people’s minds.

Team development

  • Almost all teams reported difficulties with team engagement and momentum. Strong clinical leaders were instrumental in making many of the projects succeed.
  • Teams that participated in shared learning sessions and worked together to overcome engagement barriers developed stronger teams


  • Measurement has a critical role in driving improvement. Regular monitoring and feeding back helped to sustain momentum. Projects that shared audit data with team members saw practices improve.
  • Having good quality data was paramount to the success of many projects. Where data quality was poor or not collected, this had a significant impact on the work.

Organisational support

  • Projects that had early senior support and which were integrated with organisational and strategic objectives were more likely to succeed. Considering scale up and spread of improvement work at the beginning played a key role later in the project.
  • Particular progress was observed when consultants who previously worked in organisational silos were given opportunities to form a professional network and a peer-to-peer learning exchange.

Further reading

Research report

Safer Patients Initiative: Phase 1

February 2011
Research report

Mixed-method evaluation of a large-scale organisational intervention to improve patient safety in...

Learning report

Safer Patients Initiative

February 2011
Learning report

An overview and evaluation of the Safer Patients Initiative, highlighting the impact of the...

Working with SHAs: NHS South Central

Improvement project

This project aimed to improve patient safety, focusing on work in the community and in mental health settings.

Working with SHAs: NHS North West

Improvement project

This project involved developing safety networks across England’s north west, using a nodal structure for distributed leadership of safety improvement. It aimed to develop the safety improvement infra...

Working with SHAs: NHS South West

Improvement project

This project set out to improve quality and patient safety: developing the patient safety infrastructure; further testing of different safety measures; and achieving greater understanding of how to sp...

Working with SHAs: NHS North East

Improvement project

Run by NHS North East, from December 2009 to January 2012, this project set out to improve patient safety, with a focus on nine clinical safety areas. The programme of work included identifying main a...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

WEBINAR TODAY: #NHSrecovery – how do we 'build back better'? Hear from @JKDhesi, James Mackey, @rcsloggett,…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

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

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more