Quality in community health services

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Read the final report:

Our report presents findings from a small-scale study into how quality is managed in community services. It explores how community care providers define and measure quality and recommends important next steps to support better measurement and management of quality.

What did we do in this project?

The project involved mapping the community provider landscape to understand which organisations run which community services across England. Documentary analysis of board papers and quality accounts allowed us to investigate how quality is managed and measured, and what the priorities are for improvement. An online survey and follow-up interviews with senior leaders in community providers helped us to understand their views on quality and how quality is managed in their organisations.

Why were we interested in the project?

While the Francis Inquiry has thrown a strong spotlight on quality in hospital services, relatively little national attention has been given to the quality of care in community services – but this is no less important. Growing numbers of older people and a rising birth rate alongside the policy impetus to shift care from the acute sector may place greater demand on community services in the future.

Measuring, managing and improving quality in community services presents unique challenges, such as: the variety of different organisational models and structures that are often commissioned through block contracts; care often being long term with ongoing personal and social benefits as important as clinical outcomes; and limited routine national data. This project builds on our understanding of the strategic issues relating to quality faced by community health services.