Lean Healthcare in the UK


Bloated NHS to get the Tesco treatment – Britain – Times Online:

Thanks to Rob G. (from the UK) for pointing this out to me. There's a great push for lean in the UK NHS. It's even getting attention from Tony Blair, which has to be encouraging. When do we get such a high-visibility push for lean healthcare in the U.S.? The PBS documentary & DVD could help, if we can get it in the hands of the right people.

It's interesting to me that Tesco, famously profiled in Lean Thinking and Lean Solutions, is held up as the standard for lean in Great Britain. Good for them! Of course, Toyota is mentioned, but people can always relate better to a local company.

There is a lot of good data and case studies in the article, one highlight:

“One hospital trying the “lean” approach, a production methodology first developed about 60 years ago by Toyota, found that processing a routine blood sample involved 309 separate steps, which it reduced to 57 with simple changes. They also found that under the current system more than 250 different interactions took place to discharge a patient with complex health problems.”

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. And the NHS does need all the help it can get. Thinking of my own local hospital and some of the many appointments I’ve had there over the years as both out and in patients and applying the (albeit meagre) knowledge of lean I have picked over the last couple of years I can begin to see some of the reasons why the NHS is in the state it is. The layouts are atrocious, with departments located all over the site in different buildings and at different ends of the hospital.

    It’s nice to see Tesco, a company who up until a few years ago was in a less than advantageous position growing to such new heights through the same techniques we are attempting to use in our own company. Although, having said that, when lean experts come in to companies Toyota is still the main source they refer to, and we do have a Toyota factory in the UK.

    I can only hope that these changes will shorten waiting times and improve the level of care we get in our hospitals. Here’s hoping there’s more emphasis put on keeping up the practices!

  2. […] by Mark Graban on June 16, 2006 · 6 comments Ok, so as much as I gripe about non-lean companies sometimes, I really do like to try to think positively. Working in lean healthcare certainly gives me those moments, particularly when I read about success stories and lean momentum building (as in the case of the UK this week). […]


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