Audit, the process of measuring quality of care and making appropriate changes to improve it, has always been an important part of general practice. Although there have been active efforts to try to coordinate audit activity within local groups of practices to produce meaningful comparative data, this has never until recently been achieved comprehensively at a national level. Avon Health Authority, while it existed, had always been innovative in encouraging audit within practices and provided expertise and methods enabling practices could compare their figures with each other within the Bristol area.
In 2004, changes were made to the way GP practices were measured by the Primary Care Trusts and government, under the “New Contract”. Each year, anonymised data (i.e. individual patients cannot be identified) is collected from the practices’ computer systems, such as the numbers of patients with certain conditions e.g. hypertension, diabetes, asthma etc. There are arbitrary targets set by government with regard to these conditions e.g numbers of those with blood pressure control below a certain level, and the practice performance is measured as to what proportion of patients meet those targets.
Figures are available for the previous year on www.gpcontract.co.uk