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Clinical governance

Clinical governance covers activities that help sustain and improve high standards of patient care

Clinical governance is “a system through which NHS organisations are accountable for continuously improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment in which excellence in clinical care will flourish." (Scally and Donaldson 1998, p.61)

Clinical governance is an umbrella term. It covers activities that help sustain and improve high standards of patient care. Nursing staff may already be familiar with some of these activities, quality and safety improvement, for example. What is different is the effort to bind these activities together and make them more effective.

Health care organisations now have a duty to the communities they serve for maintaining the quality and safety of care. Whatever structures, systems and processes an organisation puts in place, it must be able to show evidence that standards are upheld.

The RCN aims to promote a better understanding of clinical governance with this web resource. It wants to help those working within the nursing family to become more involved with local and national quality improvement projects.

The resource describes services and support available from the RCN and these match to five key themes of clinical governance. It also shows where to find support from other agencies.


Scally G and Donaldson LJ (1998) Clinical governance and the drive for quality improvement in the new NHS in England. British Medical Journal 317(7150) 4 July pp.61-65.

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