Using data for improvement

Two people discussing a document on an ipad

At board level you will be interested in data over time and between years to track improvement.

Red Amber Green measurement isn’t always appropriate or helpful – the ratings provide a snapshot profile, which isn’t necessarily representative of the improvement required.

If you want to produce or interpret data over time to understand whether there is an upward or downward trend rather than just viewing month to month, the interactive resource Making Data Count is for you. NHS Improvement designed this suite of tools using Statistical Process Control (SPC) to support everyone ‘from ward to board’ to use data to drive better questions and decision making.

To accompany the Making Data Count resource, senior leaders have also used the Strengthening your Decisions resource to support their decision making to focus on and drive improvement.

Other useful resources:

Here is a short published paper on the dangers of using two point comparisons and RAG reports and the benefits of using time series data to inform decision making.

A brief video describing how the use of statistical process control (SPC) has strengthened governance processes for the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust board.

A brief video describing how a clinician has used the Making Data Count approach to improve services for patients.

Case studies from people who have used the method to support clinical work and improve governance:

The role of Statistical Process Control in improving patient care – Dr Sally Morgan Clinical Psychologist West London NHS Trust

How use of SPC has strengthened governance processes – Peter Howie, Trust Secretary, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Top Tips – Using data for improvement

  • When you look at a piece of analysis ask the following question : ‘What does this tell me and what action will I take as a result.’ If you can’t answer these two questions, the analysis isn’t helping. Send it back and ask for something better.
  • Make sure that claims of significance are backed up by robust analysis – was that really a significant improvement? Using a SPC chart will prove if it is.
  • Don’t assume that the stories that are often told are always true. Was poor performance in A&E really due to increased activity? Very often it is not – many more factors are at play that should be considered.