National audit is a key strategy used to improve care for patients with dementia. Audit and feedback has been shown to be effective, but with variation in how much it improves care. Both evidence and theory identify active ingredients associated with effectiveness of audit and feedback. It is unclear to what extent national audit is consistent with evidence- and theory-based audit and feedback best practice.
We explored how the national audit of dementia is undertaken in order to identify opportunities to enhance its impact upon the improvement of care for people with dementia. We undertook a multi-method qualitative exploration of the national audit of dementia at six hospitals within four diverse English National Health Service organisations. Inductive framework analysis of 32 semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis ( n = 39) and 44 h of observations ( n = 36) was undertaken. Findings were presented iteratively to a stakeholder group until a stable description of the audit and feedback process was produced.
Each organisation invested considerable resources in the audit. The audit results were dependent upon the interpretation by case note reviewers who extracted the data. The national report was read by a small number of people in each organisation, who translated it into an internal report and action plan. The internal report was presented at specialty- and organisation-level committees. The internal report did not include information that was important to how committee members collectively decided whether and how to improve performance. Participants reported that the national audit findings may not reach clinicians who were not part of the specialty or organisation-level committees.
There is considerable organisational commitment to the national audit of dementia. We describe potential evidence- and theory-informed enhancements to the enactment of the audit to improve the local response to performance feedback in the national audit. The enhancements relate to the content and delivery of the feedback from the national audit provider, support for the clinicians leading the organisational response to the feedback, and the feedback provided within the organisation.