Research Article

Medical audit in general practice. II: Effects on health of patients with common childhood conditions. North of England Study of Standards and Performance in General Practice.

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 06 June 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:1484


OBJECTIVE--To estimate the effects of medical audit, particularly setting clinical standards, on patients' health. DESIGN--Before and after study strengthened by a replicated Latin square. SETTING--62 training general practices in the north of England. PATIENTS--Random sample of 9000 children with any of five conditions--acute cough, acute vomiting, bedwetting, itchy rash, and recurrent wheezy chest--stratified by doctor consulted, condition, and age. INTERVENTIONS--Clinical standard set by each of 10 small groups comprising 84 general practitioner trainers for one randomly selected childhood condition. Each group also experienced a different type of medical audit, randomly selected, for each of the four other study conditions (receiving a clinical standard set by another trainer group, tabulated data comparing clinical performance with that of all other groups, tabulated data from only their own group, and nothing ("control" condition)). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Condition specific, functional, psychological, and educational outcomes; together with parent satisfaction (recorded by home interviews and postal questionnaires). RESULTS--Children consulting trainers for recurrent wheezy chest after those doctors had set a standard for that condition improved both in drug compliance (79% (n = 33) before standard setting v 93% (30) after) and mean number of days of breathlessness (3.8 (SE 1.0) before v 1.7 (0.6) after) and wheeziness (4.7 (0.9) before v 1.8 (0.6) after), compared with those consulting doctors who had not (compliance 74% (144) before v 72% (146) after; breathlessness 2.4 (0.4) before v 2.3 (0.3) after; wheeziness 3.0 (0.4) before v 2.7 (0.4) after). There were no other significant effects of standard setting or audit on patients' health. CONCLUSION--Setting clinical standards improved drug compliance and respiratory function in children with recurrent wheezy chest.