The Implementation of Improvement Interventions for “Low Performing” and “High Performing” Organisations in Health, Education and Local Government: A Phased Literature Review

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Applied Health Research, University College London, London, UK

2 Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK


There is limited understanding about whether and how improvement interventions are effective in supporting failing healthcare organisations and improving the quality of care in high-performing organisations. The aim of this review was to examine the underlying concepts guiding the design of interventions aimed at low and high performing healthcare organisations, processes of implementation, unintended consequences, and their impact on costs and quality of care. The review includes articles in the healthcare sector and other sectors such as education and local government.
We carried out a phased rapid systematic review of the literature. Phase one was used to develop a theoretical framework of organisational failure and turnaround, and the types of interventions implemented to improve quality. The framework was used to inform phase 2, which was targeted and focused on organisational failure and turnaround in healthcare, education and local government settings. We used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement to guide the reporting of the methods and findings and the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) as a quality assessment tool. The review protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD: 42019131024).
Failure is frequently defined as the inability of organisations to meet pre-established performance standards and turnaround as a linear process. Improvement interventions are designed accordingly and are focused on the organisation, with limited system-level thinking. Successful interventions included restructuring senior leadership teams, inspections, and organisational restructuring by external organisations. Limited attention was paid to the potential negative consequences of the interventions and their costs.
Dominant definitions of success/failure and turnaround have led to the reduced scope of improvement interventions, the linear perception of turnaround, and lack of consideration of organisations within the wider system in which they operate. Future areas of research include an analysis of the costs of delivering these interventions in relation to their impact on quality of care.


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Volume 11, Issue 7
July 2022
Pages 874-882
  • Receive Date: 10 April 2020
  • Revise Date: 02 October 2020
  • Accept Date: 04 October 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 November 2020