The Health Foundation, an independent charity, has today announced the University of Cambridge has been chosen to establish and run a new improvement research institute, the first of its kind in Europe. 

Led by Mary Dixon-Woods, RAND Professor of Health Services Research and Wellcome Trust Investigator at the University of Cambridge, the institute will work closely with a wide range of partners across the UK including the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham. Seeking to strengthen the evidence-base for how to improve health care, it will produce practical, high quality learning about how to improve patient care and will grow capacity in research skills in the NHS, academia and beyond.

The Health Foundation will be awarding in the region of £40 million over a period of 10 years. It is making this significant investment because it recognises the huge potential for research on improvement to shed light on how sustainable and replicable improvements to the quality of patient care can be made in the NHS more quickly. 

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said:

Faster learning and discovery is vital to achieving higher quality health care for patients at a sustainable cost. That is why the Health Foundation is making its biggest single grant to date to help build the field of improvement research.

The University of Cambridge and their partners have set out a compelling vision for this ground-breaking improvement research institute – the first of its kind in Europe. This is a significant and exciting step in developing evidence on a massive scale across the NHS about what works to improve patient care. Critically, the institute’s work will include understanding not only which interventions work, but also in which contexts and why.”

Mary Dixon-Woods, RAND Professor of Health Services Research and Wellcome Trust Investigator at the University of Cambridge, said:

“The NHS, like health systems around the world, is faced with pressing challenges of quality and safety. Yet the science of how to make improvements has remained under-developed. This funding is a tremendous opportunity to produce new knowledge about how to improve care, experience and outcomes for patients. Together with our partners, the University of Cambridge is hugely excited at the chance to work with NHS staff, patients and carers to identify, design and test improvements.

‘Professor Judith Smith, Director of the Health Services Management Centre said: ‘We are delighted to be part of this exciting new venture, and look forward to working in partnership with Mary Dixon-Woods and colleagues to provide much-needed timely and evidence-based insights into the ways in which health care managers, clinicians and their wider teams can improve the quality and experience of care with and for patients and their families.’ 

Funding the new institute is part of the Health Foundation’s ongoing work to bring about better health and health care for people in the UK and builds on the charity’s strong history of supporting and developing improvement research. The institute will formally launch within the next year.