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In manufacturing, a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. It is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity of a product in order to satisfy specific customer or user requirements. ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as "the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs." If an automobile company finds a defect in one of their cars and makes a product recall, customer reliability and therefore production will decrease because trust will be lost in the car's quality.

Quality is a complex notion and means different things to different people. So before we challenge ourselves to improve quality, we need to define exactly what it means.

Our definition of quality is essentially very simple; we see it as the ‘degree of excellence’ in healthcare.
Of course, excellence has many dimensions. But within the sector it is widely accepted that excellent healthcare should have the following six characteristics1:

  • Safe – avoiding harm to patients from care that is intended to help them.
  • Effective – providing services based on scientific knowledge and which produce a clear benefit.
  • Person-centred – providing care that is respectful or responsive to individuals’ needs and values.
  • Timely – reducing waits and sometimes harmful delays. 
  • Efficient – avoiding waste. 
  • Equitable – providing care that does not vary in quality because of a person’s characteristics.


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