The creation of THIS Institute
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.
Developing the healthcare improvement research field
To advance skills and knowledge in the applied field of improvement science – a broad area of study which did not fit with the classic academic career model of increasing specialisation within a single discipline – the Health Foundation set up an Improvement Science Development Group, established postdoctoral Improvement Science Fellowships, funded professorial chairs and awarded PhD studentships to centres of excellence in the field.
The Health Foundation’s contribution to improvement research has been significant. The charity has funded around £3m a year in these activities, including 20 fellowships and 31 PhD studentships. It has also given financial support to two professorial chairs and commissioned original research with partners including the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council. The work of those it has supported has improved care and altered national policy.
With the Health Foundation’s support, momentum has gathered and the clear value of research in supporting improved care for patients is now well-established. In 2015 the charity decided to build on its investment in the field and make its biggest single grant to date – of around £40million over a ten-year period – to establish a new academic centre that, with partners, would develop knowledge about how to improve health services. The Foundation’s ambition is that with an academic home and by working with others in the healthcare system, the national profile of improvement research will grow.
Establishing The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute
Following a nine-month UK-wide selection process led by the Health Foundation, the University of Cambridge and its partners were chosen in April 2017 to host this ground-breaking new venture. Led by Professor Mary Dixon-Woods FAcSS FMedSci, RAND Professor of Health Services Research, THIS Institute (The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute) aims to create a world-leading scientific asset for the NHS by strengthening the evidence-base for improving the quality and safety of healthcare.
Defined by a highly inclusive approach that combines academic rigour with the real concerns of patients and people working in the health service, THIS Institute is part of the Health Foundation’s ongoing work to bring about better health and healthcare for people in the UK.
THIS Institute welcomes everyone to join our mission: together, we can get better at getting better.
THIS Institute would like to recognise the lasting influence on the development of the field of improvement research by the late Vin McLoughlin, former Director of Performance Quality and Performance Analysis at the Health Foundation, who inspired the charity’s work in this area.