Sustaining impact in health and care

Exploring how to maintain the benefits of innovation

Gathering lessons

The current context of rising demand, changing needs and reduced funding requires innovative ideas that improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare. However, even when innovations are evidence-based and have been proven to work, spreading and sustaining them is still difficult.

We have recently taken a look at what it means and what it takes to sustain impact in health and care in our local area. We have looked back at hundreds of projects we have supported and spoken with many directly involved in innovating in healthcare. This is an overview of our learning to date on this complex subject.


What we mean by sustainability

In our work to explore sustained impact, we have defined sustainability as the extent to which a project and its benefits are maintained or improved over time. In this way, sustained impact can happen through an innovation which carries on as originally designed or one which adapts in response to new evidence and context.

We have seen sustained impact in three distinct ways:

  • Ongoing impact: when a project, or aspects of a project, continue at their original scale, with new cohorts of people continuing to experience the benefits - for example when an innovation becomes a commissioned service.
  • Replicating impact: when a project is grows in scale, with different groups of people experiencing the benefits - for example, if a service is commissioned in new areas.
  • Evolving impact: when a project is adapted so that new benefits appear and more individuals benefit - for example when improvements to a care pathway for one disease are applied to another disease.

Learning from projects we have supported

As an organisation working in partnership with others to achieve radical, lasting change for people who live, work or are treated in our local area, we are interested in what it takes to sustain impact so that the projects we support continue to make a difference long after our funding ends.

We have looked back at hundreds of the projects that we’ve supported over the last decade. We wanted to learn about what has and hasn’t worked to achieve sustainable impact. Independent analysis of our major grants portfolio has shown us that 63% of our funded projects have been sustained in some way. To add to this insight, we spoke with people delivering projects on the ground locally in Lambeth and Southwark to find out what it takes to sustain impact. In spring 2015, we also hosted a seminar with local partners to explore the issue.  


The critical ingredients of sustainability

Our learning to date has led us to identify five critical ingredients to sustain impact in healthcare. These are far from exhaustive, but they have proved to be key tools for the projects we have supported in sustaining impact.

Next is a summary of five key lessons garnered through the analysis of our projects, as well as talks with colleagues involved in healthcare innovation in Lambeth and Southwark. They are designed to assist anyone leading innovation or interested in radical change in health and care. Carry on for a full overview of these key ingredients and examples of projects that put them to use. 

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