King's College London

Research portal

Varieties of improvement expertise: Knowledge and contestation in health-care improvement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Alan Cribb, Vikki Entwistle, Polly Mitchell

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date27 Jan 2023
Accepted/In press10 Jan 2023
E-pub ahead of print27 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust (Grant number 209811/Z/17/Z). For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. In addition we would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful suggestions. Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.


King's Authors


The ‘improvement’ of health care is now established and growing as a field of research and practice. This article, based on qualitative data from interviews with 21 senior leaders in this field, analyses the growth of improvement expertise as not simply an expansion but also a multiplication of ‘ways of knowing’. It illustrates how health-care improvement is an area where contests about relevant kinds of knowledge, approaches and purposes proliferate and intersect. One dimension of this story relates to the increasing relevance of sociological expertise—both as a disciplinary contributor to this arena of research and practice and as a spur to reflexive critique. The analysis highlights the threat of persistent hierarchies within improvement expertise reproducing and amplifying restricted conceptions of both improvement and ‘better’ health care.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454