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The Bath Audit Course

the most simple way of understanding audit

05 Setting Standards

Both the Criteria and Standards define what should be happening.  


Have a go at defining what an audit standard is.

How does it compare with this?

  • “An audit standard is a minimum level of acceptable performance for that criterion.”


  • “At least 80% of eligible women aged 25-65 should have had a cervical smear in the last 5 years.”
  • “At least 60% of asthmatics should have had a Peak Flow recorded in the past year.”
  • “100% of drugs in our doctors’ bags should be in-date.”

The standard should reflect the clinical and medico-legal importance of the criterion.

  • in the example above, 80% of women should have had a cervical smear,
  • But of those who’ve had an abnormal smear, 100% should have had action taken.

Standards may change with time:

  • 70% of patients with IHD should have a cholesterol <5.2mmol/l  – this is pertinent clinically today because the NSF says so
  • but in the future a higher standard may be expected as a result of clinical governance.


  • Some criteria are so important that they need 100% standard.
  • However, 100% standards are unusual – patients or circumstances usually conspire against perfection and the standard needs to reflect that.
  • Your literature search should give you an idea of what standards others have managed to reach.
  • Your standard needs to follow on directly from your criterion – for example,
        • “Patients on thyroxine should have had TFTs done in the last year; this should have happened in at least 90% of patients”.

The Bath Audit Course, Designed by Dr Michael Harris (Bath)

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