Helen Ford is a Senior Commissioning Manager with Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in the Children, Young People & Maternity Team. Helen shares her experiences of working with the West of England Academy, which aims to build capacity and capability across the health and life sciences sector across Quality Improvement (QI) science, innovation and patient safety.

West of England Academy

“The West of England Academy supported Gloucestershire CCG to plan and deliver two events aimed at raising awareness of the issues faced by families living with perinatal mental illness.

“Dr Alain Gregiore, a notable speaker and leading psychiatrist in the field of perinatal mental health, talked about the evidence base alongside three local women who had faced the condition and were happy to share their personal stories. They provided a compelling case for change, demonstrating that whilst the NHS invests significantly in the physical wellbeing of mothers and babies during pregnancy and maternity, more could be done to support their mental wellbeing. Evidence shows that this is a time when mothers are particularly vulnerable to depression or other mental illnesses.

“Evidence also shows that by providing the right support, we could both improve care and ensure long-term health gains for children whose mothers have been affected by the condition. During a workshop, the Academy team skilfully guided and facilitated discussions amongst local healthcare professionals, helping us to identify key issues and realistic solutions. These were subsequently prioritised and documented in an action plan, all using Quality Improvement (QI) science and tools.

“Our team was thrilled with the results of the QI workshop. I was pleasantly surprised at how engaging and practical the tools are – we will definitely use them more regularly.

“I was truly impressed with and grateful for the professional support we received from the West of England Academy to help us kick-start this valuable work for the people of Gloucestershire.”

West of England Academy Infographic

The West of England Academy: the lowdown


We saw an opportunity to support the development of a culture of continuous improvement by enhancing our regional faculty of quality improvement (QI), patient safety and innovation expertise for both patient benefit and economic growth.


We are planning and delivering learning events to promote the use of QI science, while recruiting and training QI experts within our member organisations to enthuse and support colleagues. We have developed a standard methodology for planning and delivering a QI project and an education pathway with access to QI tools.


In addition to 42 learning events, we have recruited 51 Improvement Coaches to support improvement activities in their own organisations, and are supporting 10 people as Health Foundation Q Initiative Safety Fellows.

Working with Royal United Hospitals Bath, the Health Foundation and Sheffield Microcoaching Academy, we have trained six local clinicians and managers in improving patient flow across three care pathways.

We have also collaborated with the University of the West of England on evaluation videos and the University of Bath as part of their MOOC (massive open online courses) programme.

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