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Leading healthcare improvements

Leading healthcare improvements will assist you to investigate change in your local practice setting and to develop your leadership skills in relation to policy, innovation and service improvement. This is achieved by studying concepts taught through the study materials (an understanding of leadership, policy and innovation), exploring your local practice (to gain new insights), and discussion with your tutor and study group peers (thinking as a leader). The module represents a guided enquiry into what leadership might achieve locally and the ways in which you might develop your potential as a change agent.

You’ll need to have normally completed this module and the other module in the Postgraduate Diploma in Advancing Healthcare Practice (E46) (Researching and evaluating healthcare practice (K828), before progressing to Transforming professional practice (K829)).


Start End Fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)

Click to register
This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2022.

What you will study

The module is divided into four blocks through which you explore a chosen area of practice that is amenable to policy review, practice innovation and change agency. For example, you might examine patient rehabilitation, liaison with social care agencies or in-house staff development, and explore the nature of policy, innovation and change agency in your chosen area. It is acknowledged that ‘practice’ will reflect the nature of your work, be it clinical, management, education, health promotion, technical, research or something else health-related.

Your studies will begin with a short block introducing the part played by improvement in healthcare. An understanding of change and the ways this can be harnessed to enhance healthcare is at the heart of what you do as a practitioner. You will view change in different ways through professional values, reflection on past experience and with regard to what stakeholders in healthcare aspire to. Improvement is therefore defined with reference to a range of considerations.

In Block 2 you will begin an exploration of what it is to be a leader in healthcare. Focusing on your chosen area of practice, you are assisted to review theories of leadership and evaluate their strengths and limitations. You then consider the way in which modern healthcare can be led by individuals who develop a clear vision for the future, and who make selective use of different ‘intelligences’: those associated with practice improvement, working with others, influencing the direction of work and working with your values and beliefs about best practice. Change agency skills are introduced that can be used to advance healthcare projects in your area of work.

Block 3 looks at policy and its implementation. A great deal of leadership is associated with the implementation of policy – national, regional or local (which you may have played a part in developing). You will examine what drives policy and the agendas that it might serve, and then explore the policy–practice interface where different demands compete for the commitment of leaders and followers alike. You also examine factors that help to advance policy and improve its implementation, and the different ways in which practitioners may interpret, as well as deliver, a particular policy.

In Block 4 you explore the opportunities for innovation that may then exist in your workplace. Innovation is in many regards the ultimate change and the greatest opportunity for leaders to improve healthcare. You will study what constitutes an innovation, how innovations are shaped by the circumstances in which they evolve and how we might assess whether an environment is ready for innovation. You explore some of the methods that can be used to innovate and determine which of these fit best in particular circumstances.

You will learn

On successful completion of this course you will:

  • understand the ways in which change and improvement may be defined, drawing upon insights from local practice contexts and from research evidence and theory
  • have knowledge of theories, frameworks and other explanations of leadership, change agency, innovation and policy and how these might relate to, or be influenced by a given healthcare context
  • strategically and systematically analyse the agendas and drivers for change associated with policy, innovation and other leadership initiatives
  • critically examine personal aptitudes, values, insights and skills necessary to act as a change agent
  • conduct a series of guided investigations that facilitate critical evaluation of the relationship between practice and theory
  • systematically examine the way in which philosophies, ideologies and values serve to help shape what is understood by improvement, leadership and innovation
  • formulate new courses of action or solutions to practice problems that demonstrate due and timely consultation with others in practice.


Entry is open to those with a degree or equivalent qualification, conferred by a UK university or other recognised degree-awarding body, or a relevant professional qualification. You should also have access to a practice environment, which can be clinical, education, management or research.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website. If you have any doubts about whether your level of English is good enough for you to study this course you may find it helpful to look at our Skills for OU Study site.

You are strongly advised to study no more than this one 60-credit module in the same year.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

No assumptions are made regarding your understanding of healthcare leadership, change and innovation. It will be useful though to begin a reflective diary identifying changes associated with your work that may have been viewed as improvements. Sensitising yourself in this way will help you to explore concepts more fully in the course. The following texts are useful preliminary reading:

  • Casebeer, A., Harrison, A. and Mark, A. (2006) Innovations in Healthcare: A Reality Check, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gopee, N. and Galloway, J. (2008) Leadership and Management in Healthcare, Los Angeles, Sage.
  • Green, S. (2007) Involving People in Healthcare Policy and Practice, Oxford, Radcliffe Publishing.
  • Tritter, J., Koivudalo, M., Ollila, E. and Dorfman, B. (2009) Globalisation, Markets and Healthcare Policy: Redrawing the Patient as Consumer, London, Routledge.


K827 is a compulsory module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and scientific, foreign language and diagrammatic materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

Part of this course is delivered through a website providing resources and including the use of online activities. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet and have concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Module texts and dedicated website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. You may also be required to perform other tasks, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment. The additional software for these tasks will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You are assigned a tutor who will help facilitate your study of the module and answer queries relating to your reading and local practice observations. Your tutor is accessible by email and telephone and through the tutor group forums associated with this course. Your tutor can be regarded as an ‘investigative companion’ as you explore leadership skills in healthcare, those linked to policy and innovation, as well as to practice in general. Regular contact with your tutor will help sustain study and increase the chances that you address the assessments in an appropriate way.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

It is essential to have regular access to a healthcare practice environment to be able to complete you assignments.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code K827
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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The University wishes to emphasise that, while every effort is made to regularly update this site, the material on it is subject to alteration or amendment in the light of changes in regulations or in policy or of financial or other necessity.