Who here, when they need it, wants to receive the best possible healthcare? It can be a matter of life and death! However, research has shown that good quality healthcare is often not what is delivered, even when factors such as expenditure and populations are accounted for. In some cases, such as in Mid Staffordshire, excessive variation has led to poor quality care which regrettably had fatal consequences for some patients.
Within the UK, standards to reduce excessive variation have been implemented which are overseen by national regulatory bodies. Healthcare organisations, are required to develop improvement actions in order to meet and surpass them. Despite this infrastructure, significant variation between and within healthcare providers persists, causing some to question if regulation is too reactive, only intervening after poor care is identified, and whether regulators should focus on more predictive areas in order to prevent, rather than just identify, poor care.
This research aims to understand why some healthcare organisations are seemingly able to improve much faster and more sustainably than others, even when environmental conditions and regulations change. Improvement capability has been described as a leading indicator of organisational performance and within many industrial sectors such as manufacturing, this has been thought of as the way organisations develop bundles of practices and routines to improve their products and processes over time. However within healthcare there is more focus on individual motivations and skills with it being more narrowly defined as ‘staffs ability to use improvement methods’.
For regulators and healthcare providers, consensus on what improvement capability is would be useful if they are to be developed, encouraged and measured. At the moment there are over seventy different ways of measuring improvement capability and my research is beginning to understand how differing healthcare regulatory bodies in the UK are already working in this area, with some scrutiny organisations beginning to use existing frameworks. Through increased understanding of improvement capability, my research is developing a framework for regulatory bodies to use with healthcare organisations. This would help support patient services through encouraging organisations to invest and develop improvement capability making it more likely that all of us can receive best possible care, when we need it.