Audit is defined as the systematic, critical analysis of the quality of medical care, including the procedures used for diagnosis and treatment, the use of resources and the resulting outcome and quality of information for the patient (Department of Health 1993).

How is audit different to research?

Audit often involves a degree of research. Unlike research data, audit data is not intended to prove a hypothesis and require only as much scientific rigour as is needed to convince the participants of the kinds of changes needed.

Audit is not a project in the sense that it has no end – the same audit may be repeated to check that the improvement is maintained.

Data for audit should ideally therefore be continuously available as part of the process of care. Whilst there are many similarities between audit and research, there are also some very clear differences which are outlined below.

Audit is a good place to start. The key stages undertaken during audit reflect those also undertaken during research. Examples of these include:
  1. The purpose and objective of the audit must be clarified and agreed prior to the start of the audit
  2. The audit must be planned and adequately prepared
  3. Everyone involved in the audit must be aware of what is to be audited
  4. The audit plan and final report must be in writing
  5. There must be clear guidelines and understanding as to how the standards are to be measured
  6. The audit must not interfere unduly with normal on-going activities
  7. The frequency of audits should vary with actual needs as should the intensity and extent of the audit
  8. Evidence for the audit should be collected from a sufficiently large sample to be reliable
  9. The auditor should follow up on recommendations made and on actions arising as a result of the audit
  10. For official audits the auditor should be qualified in the discipline and independent of the areas being audited (Tucker P. 1991)
Support can be obtained from a number of sources including:
  • Trust Clinical Audit department
  • Trust Research and Development unit
  • Clinical Governance office
  • Caldicott Representative
  • Information Governance office
Please click here for national audits.

  • College of Occupational Therapists 1998 Clinical Audit Information Pack
  • Department of Health. Clinical audit; meeting and improving standards in healthcare
  • London 1993 Tucker P. Mersey Regional Health Authority. Guidelines for Clinical Audit 1991.