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The value of implementing a nursing and midwifery clinical accreditation programme at two NHS trusts

22 February 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 4


Unit/ward accreditation programmes have been widely implemented by nursing and midwifery teams across healthcare providers in the UK over the recent years and have many associated benefits. These include promoting quality improvement on a wider scale across the organisation, strengthening oversight and accountability of quality and safety from ward to board and vice versa, promoting shared learning, and providing opportunities for sharing and celebrating excellence. The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust have recognised the value of this approach, launching a clinical accreditation programme in April 2023. This initially focused on nursing and midwifery, with plans to widen the approach to other disciplines and specialist teams. Up to the time of writing, 56 visits had been undertaken with 30 clinical areas accredited. The remaining visited areas are awaiting their accreditation outcome. The approach has positively contributed to improvements in patient outcomes, such as more patient observations being completed on time, a reduction in patient falls and improvements in pressure ulcers. Colleagues participating in the programme and frontline staff working in the clinical areas assessed have reported how positive the approach has been, providing opportunities for shared learning and celebrating excellence.

Clinical accreditation programmes are known to bring a sense of pride in what staff do and in their place of work. They create positivity, promote a quality improvement culture and a shared purpose, and encourage staff to aspire to best practice and excellence in care.

As with any organisational quality improvement approaches, a variety of enablers are critical to success. Key among them are the right culture, people engagement and empowerment, and strong leadership (The Health Foundation, 2021). It is therefore vital that the programme is aligned with a healthcare organisation's overarching strategy, to ensure its success and sustainability. It is also essential for the organisation's chief nursing officer (CNO)/director of nursing to champion the programme, acting as lead and securing support from the wider trust board.

NHS England has defined accreditation initiatives as follows:

‘Accreditation brings together key measures of nursing, midwifery and clinical excellence in care into one overarching framework to enable a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the quality of excellence in care … When used effectively, it can drive continuous improvement in patient outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction and staff experience … it creates the collective sense of purpose necessary to help communication, encourage ownership and achieve a robust programme to measure and influence excellence in care delivery.’

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