• Quality and safety between ward and board: a biography of artefacts study

      Keen, J.; Nicklin, E.; Long, A.; Randell, Rebecca; Wickramasekera, N.; Gates, C.; Ginn, C.; McGinnis, E.; Willis, S.; Whittle, J. (2018-06)
      Background: There have been concerns about the quality and safety of NHS hospital services since the turn of the millennium. This study investigated the progress that acute NHS hospital trusts have made in developing and using technology infrastructures to enable them to monitor quality and safety following the publication in 2013 of the second Francis report on the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. Chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC. Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. HC 898. London: The Stationery Office; 2013). Methods: A telephone survey of 15 acute NHS trusts in the Yorkshire and the Humber region, and a review of board papers of all acute NHS trusts in England for January 2015, were undertaken. The telephone survey was used to identify trusts for a larger field study, which was undertaken in four acute NHS trusts between April 2015 and September 2016. The methods included the direct observation of the use of whiteboards and other technologies on two wards in each trust, an observation of board quality committees, semistructured interviews and an analysis of the quality and safety data in board papers. Published sources about national and local agencies were reviewed to identify the trust quality and safety data that these agencies accessed and used. An interview programme was also undertaken with those organisations. The Biography of Artefacts approach was used to analyse the data. Findings: The data and technology infrastructures within trusts had developed over many years. The overall design had been substantially determined by national agencies, and was geared to data processing: capturing and validating data for submission to national agencies. Trust boards had taken advantage of these data and used them to provide assurance about quality and safety. Less positively, the infrastructures were fragmented, with different technologies used to handle different quality and safety data. Real-time management systems on wards, including electronic whiteboards and mobile devices, were used and valued by nurses and other staff. The systems support the proactive management of clinical risks. These developments have occurred within a broad context, with trusts focusing on improving the quality and safety of services and publishing far more data on their performance than they did just 3 years earlier. Trust-level data suggest that quality and safety improved at all four trusts between 2013 and 2016. Our findings indicate that the technology infrastructures contributed to these improvements. There remains considerable scope to rationalise those infrastructures.