Spotlight on Networks & Collaboration

This series is intended to highlight accessible resources on current topics, from within the Knowledge Hub and other sources. Each feature will identify a range of resources on the selected topic, and provide examples of the practical application of the improvement approach.

For the fifth in the series, the spotlight falls on networks and collaboration. Networks have been an integral part of NHS improvement teams’ approach to spreading and sustaining quality improvement in the healthcare environment. Teams have utilised networks to achieve different goals – improved clinical pathways, quality improvement and public engagement.

Clinical networks have been utilised to capture and share best practice and improve clinical pathways. For example: NHS Improvement’s Cancer Improvement Programme, Cardiac and Stroke Networks; and NHS Diabetes and Kidney Care’s nationwide Kidney Care Networks.

Improvement networks have been established to promote the spread of tried and tested quality improvement approaches. For example: NHS Institute for Innovation & Improvement established the Ambulatory Emergency Care Delivery Network (AECDN) to support local development of ambulatory emergency care services.

More recently, NHS Improving Quality have utilised social networks to promote NHS Change Day.

This Spotlight brings together Resources from the NHS legacy organisations which describe how networks and collaboration have been utilised in quality improvement projects; Knowledge Links contains brief overviews of selected journal publications which consider the value of networks to bring about improvements in healthcare services, alongside links to the full journal article; Case Study, Evaluation or Delivery Experience includes examples of improvement projects which have utilised networks and collaborative approaches; finally, Looking Forwards contains details of opportunities to use networks and collaborative approaches in future improvement work.




Clinical Networks

Better Together: Sharing Learning to Improve Care

An Evaluation of the Role of Kidney Care Network Managers

Highlighting the value of the Lead Diabetes Midwives Network

Evaluating the role and perceived impact of four regional Paediatric Diabetes Network Coordinators: The key findings


Improvement Networks

Leading Networks and Collaborations for Sustainable Change and Improvement

Improving Emergency Care Innovation Delivery Network

Patient Safety Collaboratives


Social Networks

NHS Change Day 2015 Re-Valuation Report


Knowledge Links

The Health Foundation (2014) Effective Networks for Improvement

This publication reports on how improvement networks are a better vehicle for spreading change quickly and improving connections and culture change than hierarchically enforced management changes. It considers the component parts of a successful improvement network, and identifies the practical steps required to create a successful network.

Frances Griffiths et al (2012) Social Networks – the Future for Health Care Delivery.
Social Science & Medicine 75 (2012) pp 2233 – 2241.

This article reviews whether social networks of patients and their social circles contribute valuable health-related information for healthcare improvement. Health-related social networking enables sharing of information, experience and treatment advice. However, although they are becoming increasingly used sources of health information, the authors caution that the risk of misinformation is very real.

Bernadette Bea Brown et al (2016) The Effectiveness of Clinical Networks in Improving Quality of Care and Patient Outcomes: a Systematic Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies. BMC Heath Services Research (2016) 16:360

This article evaluates studies detailing the current trend for reorganising healthcare services into networks of clinical experts, and considers whether it results in improved quality of patient care. Although there is little quantitative evidence, studies appear to show that clinical networks improve the delivery of healthcare, through integration of services and better flow of best practice knowledge.

Case Study, Evaluation or Delivery Experience

Yorkshire & Humber Dementia Network

Source4networks case study


Looking Forwards

Source4Networks brings together the latest intelligence on networks where you can access resources, blogs, webinars and key learning to help you develop effective networks. There is a key set of diagnostics that help you ‘take the temperature of you network and plan to improve your impact and value.

The Developing Effective Networks for Change and Improvement (DEN4CI) is a free online course being delivered by NHS England’s Sustainable Improvement (SI) team working in partnership with London South Bank University. It is intended for people involved in leading and facilitating networks for change and improvement in health and care. The 11-week course runs from January to April 2019 and provides the ‘building blocks’ to develop and sustain networks, so that they can deliver real change and improvement for patients and the public.