Sir John Oldham

National Clinical Lead for Quality & Productivity, Department of Health (England)

Achieving efficiency in healthcare without sacrificing physician autonomy.

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Sir John Oldham is the National Clinical Lead for Quality and Productivity at the Department of Health in England. His outstanding contributions to the field of healthcare have earned him both a knighthood and an OBE (Order of the British Empire). He is also a member of the National Quality board for the National Health Service, setting the strategic direction for quality and safety in the NHS.

His specialty is the reconciliation of two difficult priorities. We need to make healthcare more efficient, and that requires a strong managerial strategy. At the same time, physicians need a high level of autonomy to exercise their special genius. How can these needs — for overarching strategy and employee autonomy — be reconciled? Sir John's insights are especially valuable for healthcare but also for any field that struggles to balance these two values.

Sir John has a long history of leadership in quality and management in healthcare. He presented a paper at the first ever European Forum on quality improvement, and subsequently visited the the US and Sweden to speak on the subject. He collaborated in 1997 with Don Berwick, CEO of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, to redesign surgery systems in the U.S.

Fresh from this experience, Sir John returned to the UK as a pioneer of the Collaborative method, founding the National Primary Care Development Team in 2000. The Primary Care Collaborative was the largest improvement program in the world, covering 32 million patients in 40 months and delivering 72% improvement in access to GPs and substantial reductions in mortality to patients with CHD.

Sir John also created the concept of the award winning Healthy Communities Collaborative with residents of deprived areas as the improvement team members. He also works in Education, raising performance of underperforming pupils. He was invited by the Australian Government to design and train a team to operate a Primary Care collaborative across the whole of Australia, and similarly Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada.

He is the author of numerous books and articles on quality improvement and large system change. He has taught as a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. He has served on the Board of ISQUA (International Society for Quality and Accreditation) and as Treasurer since 2009. In 2010, he was asked to become a member of the European Commission Steering Group for the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Until recently, he was head of Quest4Quality Ltd.

He joined Manor House Surgery, Glossop in 1983, becoming senior partner in 1988. He still undertakes regular clinical sessions.


The Small Book About Large System Change

Sir John Oldham

This book tells the story about the creating of large system change. The specific context and subject matter deals with primary health care in England, but the principles of such change and the lessons and insights learnt are generic. They have relevance and offer great potential for others sectors and contexts.

The extent and scale of the large system change achieved here is best summed up by Donald M. Berwick, CEO from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA who remarked foreword that …
“I personally know of no improvement effort in any industry, that has achieved in such a short time such widespread and frankly, technically difficult set of changes, with such stunning results, ever”.

Similarly, Dr. Ross Wilson, from the Australian Health & Safety Council, New South Wales, remarked that:
“He's achieved more with his system-change activities than I've ever seen anyone, anywhere in the world achieve”.

The story focuses on three essential elements of large system change as follows: - the systematic transfer of knowledge - the creation of an environment that facilitated the uptake of ideas - a unified policy framework and infrastructure for spread.

The account is both insightful and compelling and is a landmark reference on a hands on approach at creating and sustaining large system change.

This beautifully written book is for manages, leaders, practitioners, clinicians, health care professionals, teachers, educators, academics and others engaged in service improvement in the public as well as the private sector.


Sir John tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Efficient healthcare

Maintaining physician autonomy




Long Term Conditions