Implementing large-scale quality improvement: lessons from The Productive Ward: Releasing Time to Care

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2012;25(4):237-53. doi: 10.1108/09526861211221464.


Purpose: This paper aims to focus on facilitating large-scale quality improvement in health care, and specifically understanding more about the known challenges associated with implementation of lean innovations: receptivity, the complexity of adoption processes, evidence of the innovation, and embedding change. Lessons are drawn from the implementation of The Productive Ward: Releasing Time to Care programme in English hospitals.

Design/methodology/approach: The study upon which the paper draws was a mixed-method evaluation that aimed to capture the perceptions of three main stakeholder groups: national-level policymakers (15 semi-structured interviews); senior hospital managers (a national web-based survey of 150 staff); and healthcare practitioners (case studies within five hospitals involving 58 members of staff). The views of these stakeholder groups were analysed using a diffusion of innovations theoretical framework to examine aspects of the innovation, the organisation, the wider context and linkages.

Findings: Although The Productive Ward was widely supported, stakeholders at different levels identified varying facilitators and challenges to implementation. Key issues for all stakeholders were staff time to work on the programme and showing evidence of the impact on staff, patients and ward environments.

Research limitations/implications: To support implementation, policymakers should focus on expressing what can be gained locally using success stories and guidance from "early adopters". Service managers, clinical educators and professional bodies can help to spread good practice and encourage professional leadership and support. Further research could help to secure support for the programme by generating evidence about the innovation, and specifically its clinical effectiveness and broader links to public expectations and experiences of healthcare.

Originality/value: This paper draws lessons from the implementation of The Productive Ward programme in England, which can inform the implementation of other large-scale programmes of quality improvement in health care.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Health Personnel / organization & administration
  • Health Plan Implementation / methods*
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Policy
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • United Kingdom