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Collective learning, change and improvement in health care: trialling a facilitated learning initiative with general practice teams


Dr Suzanne Bunniss, NHS Education for Scotland, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW, UK, E-mail:


Rationale, aims and objectives  Many patients, families, health care professionals and politicians desire for quality improvement within the UK National Health Service. One way to achieve this change is for health care teams to work and learn together more effectively. This research aimed to design and trial a facilitated learning programme with the aim of supporting general practice teams in fostering the characteristics of learning organizations.

Methods  This is an action research study. Qualitative data were captured during and after the trial from 40 participants in two multi-professional general practice teams within different Scottish health boards. Data were gathered using observations, semi-structured interviews and written learning notes.

Results  Taking part in the LPP was a positive experience of learning together as a practice and enhanced communication within the team was a particular outcome. External facilitation helped provide focus and reduce inter-professional barriers. Teams found working in small, mixed role discussion groups particularly valuable in understanding each others' perspectives. The active learning style of the LPP could be daunting at times but teams valued the chance to identify their own quality improvement goals. Teams introduced a number of changes to improve the quality of care within their practice as a result of their participation.

Conclusion  This trial of the learning practice programme shows that, with facilitation and the appropriate input of resources, general practice teams can successfully apply learning organization principles to produce quality improvement outcomes. The study also demonstrates the value of action research in researching iterative change over time.