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The Audit Commission shares learning from the first year of quality reports

11th March 2011

In its first review of quality reports published by foundation trusts (FTs), the Audit Commission’s Audit Practice has found that quality reports can drive continuous improvement as well as enhance accountability to the public and local stakeholders. But trusts can do more to ensure that the reports fully reflect the services they provide and the experience of patients.

Neil Childs, Director of the Audit Practice, Health, said:
'Quality reports can be a great source of information for patients, and help them to make choices about their healthcare. They can also help to improve quality, as trusts recognise their weaknesses and commit to improving in those areas.

'But the reports are only as good as the data that underpins them. Auditors have a crucial role in assuring this data, and have found some important areas for improvement, as well as some excellent examples of good practice that can be followed elsewhere. We hope that healthcare providers will find this analysis helpful as they strive to improve their services for patients.'

The quality report is one element of the annual report that each FT is required to publish. Quality reports contain information about how good services are, where trusts should make improvements, and how they intend to do so. The reports are underpinned by data collected across the organisation and must therefore be based on robust data to provide a fair and representative account of service quality.

Monitor, the foundation trust regulator, asked all FTs to seek external assurance to increase the public’s confidence in their 2009/10 quality reports. The Audit Commission’s Audit Practice carried out this assurance work for 52 FTs, and the briefing, Producing quality reports, is the result.

The briefing finds that FTs' corporate arrangements for ensuring data quality are variable, as is the way they interpret some definitions of care standards. Without proper systems and controls in place, FTs cannot ensure that what they are presenting is a reliable picture of their services.

Auditors did, however, find examples of good practice, and these are included in the briefing. Strong governance over data quality is essential and was evident in many FTs; half made it a higher priority than they had previously. Most FTs have comprehensive data quality policies in place.

One major area for improvement relates to the controls that FTs have in place over their data quality. Auditors recommended to almost all FTs that they should review the controls which they rely on for assuring data quality. Trusts should also ensure that all staff understand that data quality is their responsibility, even if it is not an explicit part of their job.

The briefing includes good practice case studies and key questions that should be asked to help healthcare providers to improve the performance data they use to inform their quality reports.

 

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