Audit is a fundamental part in Patient Safety and the Quality of Care. Since its inception in 1989 there have been many different definitions of clinical audit; however at its simplest: 'Audit involves improving the quality of patient care by looking at current practice and modifying it where necessary'.
Clinical audit is essentially about checking whether best practice is being followed and making improvements if there are shortfalls in the delivery of care. A good clinical audit will identify problems (or confirm optimal practice) and should lead to effective changes being implemented which result in improved patient care.
Clinical audit is a continuous process whereby healthcare professionals review care against agreed standards and make changes, where necessary, to meet those standards. The audit is then repeated to see if changes have been made and if the quality of patient care is improved. The overall aim of clinical audit is to improve patient safety by improving professional practice and the general quality of services delivered.
The Clinical Audit Department
The Clinical Audit Department is situated on the top corridor in the West wing of Noble's Hospital and the audit office hours are 8.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
The Clinical Audit Committee
The membership of the Committee includes a representative from each division at Noble's Hospital. They provide audit advice and support to the healthcare professionals within their areas.
The Committee facilitates the systematic reviews of care set against explicit standards, ensuring that patient care and outcomes are continually monitored and that there is demonstrable real service improvement, ensuring patient safety and quality of care. Members meet once a month to discuss Clinical Audit projects and their progress and audit proposals are critically appraised and formally approved by the Committee. The Committee discusses audit reports along with any recommendations made, one of these audit reports is then nominated for 'audit of the month' and the results are displayed on the Clinical Audit Department notice board.
Each year we plan a clinical audit programme that involves all our hospital departments. The audits carried out include:
- measurement of our standards of record keeping;
- ensuring compliance with national guidelines (for example: National Institute for Clinical Excellence [NICE] guidelines);
- comparison of the standard of care we provide to those of national averages;
- essence of Care (i.e. fundamental aspects of care such as privacy and dignity, communication, food and nutrition)
All audits carried out have an action plan, which indicates if there is need for improvement and outlines the changes we need to make to improve patient care.
What are the benefits of Clinical Audit?
Clinical Audit is a quality improvement process and therefore benefits of undertaking audit include:
- Identification and promotion of optimum practice which can lead to improvements in practice thus creating real benefits in patient care and service delivery;
- Development of openness to change;
- Provision of the information needed to show others that services provided are effective i.e. meeting evidence-based best practice;
- Listening to patients, understanding their expectations;
- Development of local guidelines or protocols;
- Minimisation of errors or harm to patients;
- Reduction of incidents/complaints/claims.
The overarching aim of clinical audit is to improve service user outcomes by improving professional practice and the general quality of services delivered.