- Andrea Benjamin, clinical editor, foundation programme
- 1BMJ Learning, BMA House, London WC1H 9JR
Audit measures practice against performance
The audit cycle involves five stages: preparing for audit; selecting criteria; measuring performance level; making improvements; sustaining improvements
Choose audit topics based on high risk, high volume, or high cost problems, or on national clinical audits, national service frameworks, or guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Derive standards from good quality guidelines
Use action plans to overcome the local barriers to change and identify those responsible for service improvement
Repeat the audit to find out whether improvements in care have been implemented after the first audit
In the United Kingdom, doctors in the first two years after graduation are asked to perform an audit. Audit measures practice against standards. Unlike research (which asks the question, “what is the right thing to do?”), clinical audit asks, “are we doing the right thing in the right way?”1
Clinical audit forms part of clinical governance, which aims to ensure that patients receive the best quality of care. Clinical governance is often defined as how NHS organisations are accountable for continually improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care.2
Audit can include assessment of:
The structure of care—for example, resources such as the presence of a dedicated stroke unit
The process of care—for example, waiting times in clinics
The outcome of care—for example, blood pressure reduction in response to therapy.
Audit should also be transparent. It should not be confrontational or judgmental—it is not an opportunity to name, shame, and blame.
Does audit work?
There is conflicting evidence on whether audit works. Audit and feedback has not consistently been found to be effective.3 For every success story there …