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posted 19 Nov 2015, 06:49 by Derryn Lovett
Spreading good practice in diabetes care: Reflections from a CLAHRC Fellow in Northwest London

Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat of our times and an urgent public health issue. Too many people with diabetes are still not receiving all the vital checks they need and there are significant variations in care between clinical commissioning group areas. This is leading to devastating complications – every year, around 20,000 people with diabetes die early.

The faster we can spread good practice, the better diabetes care will be. Yet the spread of good practice is often too slow and sometimes even the best ideas fail to achieve widespread use. In April 2015, I was awarded a CLAHRC Northwest London Improvement Leader Fellowship to explore how Diabetes UK can support the NHS to better spread good practice in diabetes care.

Over the past eight months I have worked with commissioners and healthcare professionals across the country to coproduce and test different methods for spreading good practice, including in-depth case studies and practical ‘how to’ guides.

Research suggests that there is no simple answer to the question of which methods are most effective for spreading good practice in healthcare. A number of approaches have been found to work. Using a participatory action research approach, I have learned two important lessons during my Fellowship:
  1. Disseminating good practice through written materials, online content and presentations is only half the story – social influence and communication, achieved through methods such as networks, are essential for successfully diffusing good practice into local areas.
  2. Charities can play an important role in supporting the NHS to spread good practice. When solutions to common problems are found, it’s essential that they are recognised and spread as widely as possible – many charities have well established channels and mechanisms that commissioners and healthcare professionals can tap into.
The Fellowship has been fundamental in shaping the future of my work. It has given me dedicated time and space away from the day job, connected me with leading improvement experts and helped me to develop new skills in putting quality improvement (QI) methods into practice. (I’ve even been inspired to launch a new online resource to support those improving diabetes care to learn about and apply QI methods).

In the coming months, I will be looking at how ‘opinion leaders’ can influence the diffusion of good practice and developing interactive communities of practice to promote the transfer of learning across the NHS.

The NHS is full of brilliant people with brilliant ideas. This World Diabetes Day, can you help halt the diabetes epidemic?

Ben Ellis
Shared Practice and Innovation Manager, Diabetes UK
Improvement Leader Fellow, NIHR CLAHRC Northwest London