OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: United Kingdom 2016

Raising Standards

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Health systems in the United Kingdom have, for many years, made the quality of care a highly visible priority, internationally pioneering many tools and policies to assure and improve the quality of care. A key challenge, however, is to understand why, despite being a global leader in quality monitoring and improvement, the United Kingdom does not consistently demonstrate strong performance on international benchmarks of quality. This report reviews the quality of health care in the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, seeking to highlight best practices, and provides a series of targeted assessments and recommendations for further quality gains in health care. To secure continued quality gains, the four health systems will need to balance top-down approaches to quality management and bottom-up approaches to quality improvement; publish more quality and outcomes data disaggregated by country; and, establish a forum where the key officials and clinical leaders from the four health systems responsible for quality of care can meet on a regular basis to learn from each other’s innovations.



Executive summary

The United Kingdom’s four health systems have much in common. They all offer population-wide insurance for the vast majority of health care needs, largely free at the point of use, through tax-funded single national pools. Similar values and service-models (such as a strong primary care sector) stem from a common heritage and evolution over the past 60 years. In addition, continuously improving the quality of care is a deeply established and widely shared commitment in all of the four systems. Each benefits from a bold and clear vision to achieve care that is consistently safe, effective and person-centred. The United Kingdom’s drive to continuously strengthen quality assurance, monitoring and improvement means that it has pioneered, or implemented more widely and deeply than elsewhere, several tools and approaches to monitoring and improving health care quality. The United Kingdom has become a point of reference, for example, in the development of evidence-based clinical guidelines; resources to support clinicians to stay up to date and engage in on-going professional development; use of patient surveys and patient reported outcome measures; data-linkage, transparency and public reporting; as well as reporting and learning from adverse events.


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