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What if the Audit Commission visited you?
  1. E. Stephen Searle, MRCGP, MFPHM, MFFP, Consultant in Contraception and Sexual Health
  1. Correspondence Dr Stephen Searle, Consultant in Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, Family Planning Services, Saltergate Health Centre, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 1SX, UK. Tel: 01246 4600/01 Fax: 01246 559 763

Abstract

Readers will be familiar with high profile media items, like the Audit Commission investigating national public institutions, and publicising rigorous critiques of their ‘value for money’.

Family planning (FP) services may be interested to learn that the Audit Commission also perform ‘district audits’ (nothing to do with ‘clinical audit’) and that these can analyse broader concerns to do with quality of patient care and acceptability of services, not just efficiency.

‘Out of the blue’ our service was the focus of such a district audit conducted over just 3 weeks. We were asked what areas, apart from ‘value for money’, we would like investigated. We were keen to measure if our efforts of collaboration with Primary Care and other agencies had been effective. We learned that there is a national system (DATIS) to compare each FP service's expenditure per thousand patients. We also learned that being the subject of such an investigation need not be a threatening experience, and can be an opportunity to review quality of care and demonstrate our cost effectiveness.

This account is the report of the district audit team of our service and our attempts at collaboration.

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