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National clinical audit for quality and patient outcomes improvement

Cathy Hassell, Deputy Director Quality Programmes, NHS England discusses national clinical audit for quality and patient outcomes improvement  at today’s Clinical Audit for Improvement conference. In her presentation Cathy discussed:

  • developing meaningful and comparable measurements for all major pathways of care for every provider
  • measuring the impact of clinical audit
  • developing better use of clinical audit in commissioning
  • NHS England Update


Cathy opened the presentation by saying that clinical audit is very important to us at NHS England and that we need to continue to invest in clinical audit at a national level. The investment of £15million a year in national clinical audit and patient outcomes programmes will continue to ensure that the areas we invest in reflect the aims of improving outcomes for patients along the 5 domains, which will help the NHS to stimulate quality improvement. 

Cathy discussed the national clinical audit and patient outcomes programme, and the publication of outcomes on my NHS which are mainly derived from clinical audit. 

With regard to national clinical audit Cathy said that "we hope people are using data from national clinical audit to improve services locally". 

Cathy stated that we should be making better use of clinical audit data for commissioning and this could be improved.  Cathy said that we also need to measure the impact of clinical audit. There is limited evidence at present of audits role in impacting on quality improvement, this is not to say that audit is not having an impact but it is often difficult to attribute improvements in patient outcomes directly to audit as there are many contributing factors. Cathy said that NHS England are looking at this through case studies, systematic reviews, audit of audits and national audit providers. 

Cathy finished by stating that the right conditions for clinical audit are incredibly important. 

During questions there was much discussion over the NHS England focus on national audit over local audit in terms of the funding for the national programme. Delegates felt that more funding and importance should be placed on local clinical audit. There was also heated discussion on the developing of national clinical audit programmes outside of the hospital setting particularly in care homes. Pauline Ong stated that a feasibility study had been undertaken with regard to clinical audit in care homes but care homes found it difficult to free up staff to take part in clinical audit and NHS England found it incredibly difficult to make people participate and as a result of this the programme in terms of social care audit has been put on ice. 


Cathy Hassell Biography:

As Head of Clinical Programmes Cathy currently leads NHS England’s National Clinical Audit, Seven Day Services, and Quality Standards programmes, which all aim to stimulate quality improvement.

Cathy has previously worked as a commissioner of independent sector services for the NHS at regional level, led the implementation of patient choice policy and was involved in the roll out of clinical information systems in general practice and stroke telemedicine services for users across Yorkshire and the Humber.   

Over the past few years Cathy has been involved in the establishment and design of NHS England as part of the government’s ambition to bring about a more clinically-led, patient-centred commissioning system.

Also of interest:

Data Quality and Clinical Coding for Improvement
Thursday 3 December 2015
Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester

Clinical Audit Masterclass
Tuesday 10 November 2015
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Clinical Audit for Improvement 2016
Tuesday 8 March 2016
Hallam Conference Centre, London

7 October 2015


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