Clinical audits often involve the collection of non-routine data, and knowledge of how this is collected and stored is often held by individual members of NHS staff.
Robin Burgess, chief executive of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, a charity set up by groups including the RCGP to improve healthcare quality, said these staff could be lost during NHS reforms.
‘We need to make sure that the knowledge that is in PCTs in not eroded by poor transfer,’ he told GP.
GP consortia that fail to take this on board could miss out on improvements in efficiency that follow clinical audits and cost savings in areas such as prescribing budgets, he said.
Professor Ruth Chambers, a GP and PBC clinical lead in Stoke on Trent, said clinical audit would be vital to GP commissioning.
‘If we redesign services we'll need clinical audit in place to check that patients experiencing different service provision have at least as good health outcomes as with the old style service and we haven't sacrificed quality and safety in getting the costs down,’ she said.
Stephen Ashmore, who managed the Leicestershire Primary Care Audit Group and now provides training through the Clinical Audit Support Centre, said the NHS had repeatedly lost clinical audit staff during reorganisations.
GP consortia need to think ahead to avoid suffering the same fate, he believes. Mr Ashmore added that consortia will be well placed to carry out clinical audits because of the high quality of IT systems in practices.