The barriers and facilitators influencing the sustainability of hospital-based interventions: a systematic review

Julie Cowie* (Corresponding Author), Avril Nicoll, Elena D. Dimova, Pauline Campbell, Edward A. Duncan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Identifying factors that influence sustained implementation of hospital-based interventions is key to ensuring evidence-based best practice is maintained across the NHS. This study aimed to identify, appraise and
synthesise the barriers and facilitators that influenced the delivery of sustained healthcare interventions in a hospital-based setting.
Methods: A systematic review reported in accordance with PRISMA. Eight electronic databases were reviewed in addition to a hand search of Implementation Science journal and reference lists of included articles. Two reviewers
were used to screen potential abstracts and full text papers against a selection criteria. Study quality was also independently assessed by two reviewers. Barriers and facilitators were extracted and mapped to a consolidated sustainability framework.
Results: Our searching identified 154,757 records. We screened 14,626 abstracts and retrieved 431 full text papers, of which 32 studies met the selection criteria. The majority of studies employed a qualitative design (23/32) and were conducted in the UK (8/32) and the USA (8/32). Interventions or programmes were all multicomponent, with the majority aimed at improving the quality of patient care and/ or safety (22/32). Sustainability was inconsistently reported across 30 studies. Barriers and facilitators were reported in all studies. The key facilitators included a clear accountability of roles and responsibilities (23/32); ensuring the availability of strong leadership and champions advocating the use of the intervention (22/32), and provision of adequate support available at an organisational level (21/32). The most frequently reported barrier to sustainability was inadequate staff resourcing (15/32). Our review also identified the importance of inwards spread and development of the initiative over time, as well as the unpredictability of sustainability and the need for multifaceted approaches.
Conclusions: This review has important implications for practice and research as it increases understanding of the factors that faciliate and hinder intervention sustainability. It also highlights the need for more consistent and complete reporting of sustainability to ensure that lessons learned can be of direct benefit to future implementation of interventions.
Trial registration: The review is registered on PROSPERO (CRD42017081992).
Original languageEnglish
Article number588
Pages (from-to)588
Number of pages27
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

University of Stirling for providing financial support for open access costs
This review was funded by the Chief Scientist Office, grant number GCA/17/26. JC, PC and EAD are employed by the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, which is funded by the Chief Scientist Office in Scotland.


  • Barriers, Dynamic
  • Facilitators
  • Hospital-based interventions
  • Implementation
  • Sustainability
  • Systematic review
  • Dynamic
  • Barriers
  • CARE


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