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Welcome to the NHS learning network!

Isn't it interesting that while there has been such a push towards evidence-based practice, there has been far less emphasis on evidence-based service delivery and management? For example, there is much more research on how to treat an individual patient with diabetes than how to run a good diabetic service for a population. The NHS is implementing a huge programme of change. Clinical staff are taking on new roles - expanding their horizons towards shaping services for populations. They are getting more involved in management. The need for excellence in management and service delivery has never been greater.

Evidence about management it is not easy to find. In the absence of hard evidence, wouldn't it be helpful to find out how others in the NHS have tried to improve a service - and be able to learn from their experience? For example, to help Primary Care Groups across the country learn from each other about how they are tackling a common priority, like managing emergency admissions.

The service is buzzing with good ideas and experiments in service delivery. The challenge is to spread information about them, to learn from the best, and to develop the management skills on which they are based. The NHS Learning Network aims to do just this. Spreading good practice in service delivery is the main objective of the NHS Learning Network. It has four main elements:

  1. Supporting intelligence - providing information and evidence about service delivery solutions.
  2. Learning Centres - providing opportunities for people to learn from one another.
  3. Management Training - strengthening the core knowledge base of management in the NHS and increasing access to training for clinical staff.
  4. Leadership - developing clinical and non-clinical leaders.

Supporting intelligence

A National Database of Service Delivery Practice is being piloted in a newly developed ‘Learning Zone' on the NHS Web. The database is designed for NHS staff to enter and search for examples of good practice in service delivery. For example, details of all Beacon Services will be available. Information will also held about learning opportunities. You can search the database provided you have access to the NHS Web - and you can enter information. More details about the database are provided in HSC 1999 110.

A national NHS Management Forum is being set up to review promising new management interventions and to encourage their evaluation. We will ensure that you hear about the results of these evaluations.

Two new NHS R&D programmes have been launched which could add to the evidence-base for service delivery and management. These are the Service Delivery and Organisation Programme and the new Human Resources R&D programme.

ImpAct is part of this ‘supporting intelligence'. It is being funded to report on examples of good practice in service delivery - identified through the database or otherwise.

Learning centres

We are funding the setting up of Learning Centres, one to each Region, to encourage hands-on practical learning about good practice in service delivery. These will be NHS organisations which have, either:

♦ attempted a significant change to service delivery and management and a track record in telling others about it; or
♦ significant skills in encouraging peer group learning on service delivery issues.

Management training

We are reviewing management training opportunities for NHS staff. Our aims are to strengthen the content and evidence-base of existing training (influenced by other elements of the Learning Network) and to increase access to training for clinical staff (for example through the Learning Centres).


Developing effective leaders in the NHS is a priority. We are looking at ways of building on the strengths of current programmes, such as the NHS Leadership Development Programme for Chief Executives, the work of the British Association of Medical Managers, and nurse leadership training.


We have made a good start. Browse the Database - search it to find examples useful to you, and network with colleagues! Go and visit a ‘Beacon'. Look out for news of your region's Learning Centres. Ask your local education and training representative, or Regional Office, about opportunities to sharpen up your management skills.

But, this is just the beginning. Through ImpAct and in other ways we will keep you in touch with progress.

Jennifer Dixon
NHS Executive

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