National health organisations publish a shared commitment to quality

The National Quality Board (NQB) has today (21 December) published a new framework that will promote improved quality criteria across all national health organisations for the first time.

The new publication provides a nationally agreed definition of quality and guide for clinical and managerial leaders wanting to improve quality.

The approach has been agreed by the national bodies that form the NQB to provide more consistency and to enable the system to work together more effectively.

It is part of work to cut unnecessary red tape by reducing duplication and aligning demands on professionals for information on the quality of services.

The document sets out a range of measures to achieve higher and consistent standards including: the need for a common language that people who use services understand; to ensure commissioners and providers experience a coherent system of assurance, measurement and regulation; that professionals and staff are equipped and empowered to deliver safe, effective, and responsive care; and leaders should create a culture where people feel free to speak up when something goes wrong.

Reducing variation in the quality of services and applying consistent quality criteria is one of the most important challenges facing health and care services, as they seek to deliver services to a growing and ageing population.

Despite improvements in quality in recent years, there is still variation in quality within and between organisations, areas and populations, as noted in the CQC’s recent State of Care report. Improving quality alongside health and wellbeing, finance and efficiency is a key ambition of the Five Year Forward View and underpins the development of Sustainability and Transformation Plans at a local level.

The National Quality Board was established to provide leadership on quality on behalf of the national health bodies.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s Medical Director and co-chair of the NQB, said:  “Health care services around the world are facing the combined challenges of rising demands and difficult financial circumstances. It is vital that quality remains the fundamental aim of our work in the NHS and that we need to continue to provide the very best care possible, as we adapt to these difficult challenges.

“Responsibility for quality is shared across the health and care system, and whilst national guidance can provide consistency, actual change will be driven by the professionals and staff who we know are committed to providing patients with the very best care possible. This shared vision of quality is a response to the call for a consistent approach and we hope it will act as a further catalyst for improvement by leaders at what is a critical time for change in the health sector.”

Professor Sir Mike Richards, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals and co-chair of the NQB, said: “CQC’s State of Care report highlighted variation in quality in all the sectors it regulates – between providers and even between different services from the same provider.  The first step in improving quality is for us to have a common view of what we mean by it. The NQB’s single shared view of quality envisages person-centred services that are safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well-led, and which use resources in a sustainable way.

“This document sets out our commitment to quality, and we’ll demonstrate that commitment in practical ways. For example by using the National Quality Board to co-ordinate work on quality across health and care, and commissioning work from others that supports quality improvement. We are also aligning the way we assess and support leadership, which should make it easier for providers to demonstrate the good leadership that staff and people who use services rely on.”

The Shared Commitment to Quality sets out a single, shared view of quality and the steps that can help organisations close the quality gap. It states that success will also depend on ensuring that the people who lead health and care services have the right support to encourage a culture that promotes quality. This support is described in a Framework for Action from the National Improvement and Leadership Development board, published earlier this month, which will help deliver the ambition of the Shared Commitment to Quality.