One person's jargon is another's Quality Improvement

Featured article - 04 May 2021
By Will Warburton Director of Improvement, The Health Foundation

Will Warburton Director of Improvement, The Health Foundation

The use of jargon gets a bad rap, rightly so. At the same time, I remember my English teacher once saying to me that jargon is only jargon when people don’t have a clear and shared understanding of what a term means – and that I would break word count limits very quickly if I wrote ‘the one with a different colour shirt who is allowed to touch the ball with his hands inside the white lines but not outside them’ instead of writing ‘the goalkeeper’.

We’ve found a similar problem when describing structured methods to improve the quality of care, known as Quality Improvement (QI). To try to help reduce the mystique around these approaches, we’ve published a new edition of our ‘quick guide’, Quality Improvement Made Simple. It aims to provide an explanation of popular methods and their underlying principles.

Over the past decade, my organisation, the Health Foundation, has been testing these methods, predominantly in healthcare. We have also supported work in the adult social care sector, such as Prosper, which worked with staff and residents to reduce harm in care homes in Essex.

So can QI approaches help improve quality in adult social care? Evidence suggests adaptation is required. The PROSPER evaluation found there was real value for staff in having time to learn about new ways of working, in gathering and testing small ideas for improvements, and in having data to track the impact of changes over time. It also found that teams preferred to learn through doing rather than theory, and valued how the approach enabled people who access care to be involved in making things better. Staff valued practical education on how to prevent falls or pressure ulcers more than training in improvement methods.

So while QI methods, suitably adapted, can help, our view is that improvement in adult social care presents unique challenges, and needs solutions designed by people who access care and the sector, for people and the sector. That’s why, together with the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, we’re investing £15million over the next seven years in the development of the IMPACT centre, led by Professor Jon Glasby at the University of Birmingham with partners across the UK, including SCIE. The centre will develop new ways to implement evidence and support improvement in adult social care. It will be undertaking co-design with the sector over coming months. You can find out more, and register interest in getting involved, below.

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