27 April 2015

Learning about QI in Canterbury, NZ

masonBy Mason Fitzgerald, Director of Corporate Affairs

On a recent trip back home to New Zealand, I had the pleasure of spending a day with colleagues at the Canterbury District Health Board (the commissioner and main provider of acute, mental health and community services in the South Island).


I spent the day visiting their “Design Lab”, a large warehouse space which hosts their central quality improvement team, provides a space for training and mock ups of physical environments.

Richard Hamilton, Business Development Manager, took me through their quality improvement journey, which started in 2007. My overall impression, was that despite the differences between their programme and ours, the values and principles were strikingly similar.

Early on, they focused on building the will amongst front-line staff by holding an engagement event that lasted for six weeks and attracted 6000 staff. They ensured that all their senior managers received training in improvement methodology, and acted as early promoters of the programme to other staff.

They now have over 1000 stories of change, which have been brought about by giving staff permission to makes changes in their work environment, and drawing on their passion and commitment. Language is key in creating a purposeful identity, and individual programmes are defined by the impact on the patient, i.e. they talk about lost patient time, rather than “efficiency”.

Overall, the programme has delivered significant improvements in quality, reduced costs, and improved staff experience. It gave me great confidence that we are now following a similar path with our Quality Improvement programme, and that we can learn from places like Canterbury in our mission to provide the highest quality care. I believe we could and should focus more on improving quality across organisational boundaries, use the right language to describe our work, and worry less about producing savings, which will undoubtedly come from providing a high quality service.


The Canterbury DHB is the second largest DHB in the country by both geographical area and population size – serving 510,000 people (12% of the New Zealand population) and covering 26,881 square kilometres and six Territorial Local Authorities.


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