Since completing the GenerationQ programme, Ailsa has become Associate Director, Improvement Programmes and Science at Haelo, Innovation and Improvement Centre, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

At the time of her fellowship, Ailsa had been Associate Director for Quality Improvement Programmes at the Haelo innovation and improvement centre based at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust since 2012. Her role involved organising and delivering change programmes across Salford, as well as managing local, regional and national health care improvement networks. She has lead responsibility for the NHS Quest network of foundation trusts.

Ailsa qualified as a dietitian in 1991 and completed a masters in health sciences in 1992. From 1991-2000, she practiced as a clinical dietitian in acute trusts. In 2000, she was appointed Head of Acute Nutrition and Dietetic Services at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and in 2004 she became Assistant Director of Operations at Wyre Primary Care Trust.

Ailsa was awarded a doctorate from the University of Central Lancashire in 2005, for her thesis on the impact of gastronomy feeding on quality of life, and then took up a senior research fellow post at the university. From 2010-12 Ailsa was seconded to the Department of Health to facilitate the national improvement programme for the QIPP safe care workstream.

System-wide improvement

Going into GenerationQ, Ailsa was keen to learn more about how NHS organisations can achieve system-wide quality improvement. 'At the moment, I think the NHS is largely focusing on delivering quality improvement within microsystem environments, for example in individual teams and departments, but is doing less well at improvement on a system level. I want to explore how we can best organise ourselves to raise quality across a whole system and what frameworks we can put in place to support this goal.'

Leading effectively

The joint focus that GenerationQ places on leadership skills and quality improvement methodologies is something that particularly appeals to Ailsa. 'My goal in undertaking the programme is to become a more effective leader who is equipped to respond to the challenges and demands of today’s health care environment.

'From reading around the four domains of leadership – the personal, relational, contextual and technical aspects – I can absolutely see that you need to function well in each area if you are to lead people and organisations effectively. I’m looking forward to developing my understanding of what each domain requires of individuals and to applying what I learn in my work.'

Supporting dissemination

As part of her fellowship Ailsa ran an improvement project that influenced NHS England to publish commissioning guidance on nutrition and hydration, and developed a measurement tool to support whole health economies to deliver improvements in care.

The project was given further support through a Spreading Improvement grant to help disseminate learning and maximise the impact of the approach across the health service. Funding is being used to further disseminate the nutritional care tool across the NHS by producing supporting educational materials and running regional events.