Mar 20, 2018
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are self-organising and self-governing groups of people who strive to be better practitioners by developing and spreading new knowledge and practices. CoPs are seen as valuable means to improve collective learning in health and social care, but measuring their effect is difficult. This scoping study collected data to assess the feasibility of, and best approach to, a full-scale evaluation of CoPs.
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are self-organising and self-governing groups of people who share a passion for their working practices and strive to be better practitioners by developing and spreading new knowledge, practices, capabilities and organisational capacity. CoPs are increasingly seen as valuable means to improve knowledge sharing and collective learning, overcoming disciplinary and organisational boundaries in health and social care. However, measuring their effect is difficult. Wider evidence is incomplete about both how CoPs work and the value and impacts they create. Yet if CoPs are to be a part of current ambitions to transform health and social care in the UK and beyond, we urgently need a deeper understanding of their operation and consequences.
This project was a scoping study, looking at the CoPs set up in 2015 in association with the Health Innovation Network, the Academic Health Science Network for South London. The CoPs referred to in this report cover: medicines safety; maternity; duty of candour; medicines optimisation; sepsis; acute deterioration; and delirium. CoPs members include NHS non-medical and medical staff from a range of professional groups, and academics.
The aim of this study was to collect data to assess the feasibility of, and best approach to, a full-scale evaluation of CoPs, as well as to provide immediate evidence to help the CoPs improve their effectiveness.
HIN CoPs created enthusiastic engagement and provided their members with an attractive route to greater patient safety and healthcare improvement.
If the knowledge needed to address the problem is contained within, or can be explored through, the CoP, there is an opportunity to deliver change. However, if the knowledge is not accessible to the community, and if the levers for delivering change are beyond its reach, there needs to be some modification of the model to engage senior leadership, change national mandates or work with commissioners.
Based on our research, we proposed a five-level maturity model for the HIN CoPs. Sustaining the rhythm of learning at a high level of maturity may be more easily done where the CoP is linked to, or embedded within, other approaches to improvement.
This report identified a number of future evaluation questions along with associated subsidiary questions. The key overarching questions are:
Summary of findings
Initial conclusions based on the evidence collected to date
ToC and evaluation questions
Recommendations for future research