An article has been published in the prestigious Health Service Journal (HSJ) which explores the use of Statistical Process Control (SPC) in helping acute trust boards to intervene when performance declines, expanding on research originally supported by WMAHSN.
The HSJ article, Understanding the right and wrong time for intervention, was written by Paul Bird, Head of Programmes for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) West Midlands.
In the article, Paul examines the use of SPC charts, which are a staple in many sections of industry and manufacturing. He argues that the charts could also help decision makers in the NHS to better understand variations in the data they receive, by setting well-defined control limits which indicate what might be normal variation (or chance) and what might be indicative of a problem with performance, and therefore where intervention by trust boards may be required.
Paul asserts that despite the assistance that control charts can offer, they are not commonplace in the healthcare sector, citing the findings of the Methods to monitor quality of care programme, supported by WMAHSN.
The outcomes of the programme, a recent study published in the BMJ and undertaken by CLAHRC West Midlands and the WMAHSN, showed that of 30 randomly selected trusts over a twelve month period, of the 589 charts included, only 72 used some element of Control Chart methodology to eliminate chance from their findings.
Paul concludes that that while intervention is required and rightly expected of boards, intervention has its less tangible costs, and these should not be underestimated. The use of SPC charts offers trust boards the opportunity to build organisational confidence, and to help make better decisions.