Background Leadership and innovation are currently seen as essential elements for the development and maintenance of high-quality care. Little is known about the relationship between leadership and culture of innovation and the extent to which quality improvement methods are used in general practice. This study aimed to assess the relationship between leadership behaviour, culture of innovation and adoption of quality improvement methods in general practice.
Method Self-administered postal questionnaires were sent to general practitioner quality improvement leads in one county in the UK between June and December 2007. The questionnaire consisted of background information, a 12-item scale to assess leadership behaviour, a seven-dimension self-rating scale for culture of innovation and questions on current use of quality improvement tools and techniques.
Results Sixty-three completed questionnaires (62%) were returned. Leadership behaviours were not commonly reported. Most practices reported a positive culture of innovation, featuring relationship most strongly, followed by targets and information but rated lower on other dimensions of rewards, risk and resources. There was a significant positive correlation between leadership behaviour and the culture of innovation (r = 0.57; P < 0.001). Apart from clinical audit and significant event analysis, quality improvement methods were not adopted by most participating practices.
Conclusions Leadership behaviours were infrequently reported and this was associated with a limited culture of innovation in participating general practices. There was little use of quality improvement methods beyond clinical and significant event audit. Practices need support to enhance leadership skills, encourage innovation and develop quality improvement skills if improvements in health care are to accelerate.