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Where it all started

The beginning

Driven by its recognition of the huge potential of improvement research to shed light on how sustainable improvements can be made to patient care, the Health Foundation has been supporting the development of this field of study since 2009.

The independent charity, committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK, started its work to help grow and develop improvement research at a time when this creative, interdisciplinary, responsive and applied field of study was under-developed and fragmented.


The Health Foundation takes a strategic decision to build and promote knowledge on how to improve care

The Health Foundation has been supporting the development of improvement research as a field of study since 2009, with belief in its capacity to uncover how sustainable improvements can be made to patient care.

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The Health Foundation hosts the Vin McLoughlin Colloquium on the Epistemology of Improving Quality 

In April 2010 the Health Foundation hosted a five-day event with 30 leading scholars from a diverse range of clinical and academic disciplines to explore leading ideas and knowledge of healthcare improvement.

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The Health Foundation sets up the Improvement Science Development Group

The Improvement Science Development Group brings together experts in improvement science from all over the world. They come together twice a year to share their knowledge and develop the underpinning theories and methods for this new field.


The Health Foundation establishes postdoctoral Improvement Science Fellowships

Now superseded by THIS Institute’s fellowship programme, the Health Foundation’s pioneering Improvement Science Fellowships aimed to develop and nurture the future leaders of improvement science.

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The Health Foundation awards PhD studentships to centres of excellence

To support the long-term development of the improvement science field by UK research organisations, the Health Foundation awarded PhD funding to nine universitites in 2013 and a further four research organisations in 2015.

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The Health Foundation funds professorial chairs – Alan Cribb and Charles Vincent 

The Health Foundation appointed Alan Cribb and Charles Vincent as professorial fellows to strengthen academic research in patient safety and person-centred care.

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The Health Foundation decides to create an improvement research institute

The Health Foundation announced it would create an improvement research institute to expand its fellowships and networks into an outstanding international centre of excellence.

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Nine-month long selection process begins

Professor Mary Dixon-Woods and Dr Rebecca Simmons submitted proposal under the University of Cambridge that set out ambitious plans with partners in the health service, university and charity sectors across the UK.

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The University of Cambridge and its partners were chosen

The University of Cambridge was chosen to be the home of the new improvement research institute and started building the foundations of THIS Institute.

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THIS Institute launches

The new research institute launches under the banner of THIS Institute (The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute).

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THIS Institute announces winners of its first fellowships

In 2018, THIS Institute awarded 12 fellowships at three levels tailored to researchers’ specific career stage: PhD, Post-doctoral and Senior.

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Professor Mary Dixon-Woods delivers the Harveian Oration

On 18 October 2018, THIS Institute director Professor Mary Dixon-Woods delivered the Harveian Oration at a gathering of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in London. In her presentation, Professor Dixon-Woods described challenges in quality and safety in healthcare, and proposed a way forward for improvement founded on evidence.

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‘How to improve healthcare improvement: an essay’ is published in BMJ

As improvement practice and research begin to come of age, Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, Director of THIS Institute, considers the key areas that need attention if we are to reap their benefits.

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