AIMS: To ascertain views about constraints on the progress of audit experienced by members of four of the therapy professions: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and clinical psychology. METHODS: Interviews in six health service sites with a history of audit in these professions. 62 interviews were held with members of the four professions and 60 with other personnel with relevant involvement. Five main themes emerged as the constraints on progress: resources; expertise; relations between groups; organisational structures; and overall planning of audit activities. RESULTS: Concerns about resources focused on lack of time, insufficient finance, and lack of access to appropriate systems of information technology. Insufficient expertise was identified as a major constraint on progress. Guidance on designing instruments for collection of data was the main concern, but help with writing proposals, specifying and keeping to objectives, analysing data, and writing reports was also required. Although sources of guidance were sometimes available, more commonly this was not the case. Several aspects of relations between groups were reported as constraining the progress of audit. These included support and commitment, choice of audit topics, conflicts between staff, willingness to participate and change practice, and concerns about confidentiality. Organisational structures which constrained audit included weak links between heads of professional services and managers of provider units, the inhibiting effect of change, the weakening of professional coherence when therapists were split across directorates, and the ethos of regarding audit findings as business secrets. Lack of an overall plan for audit meant that while some resources were available, others equally necessary for successful completion of projects were not. CONCLUSION: Members of four of the therapy professions identified a wide range of constraints on the progress of audit. If their commitment to audit is to be maintained these constraints require resolution. It is suggested that such expert advice, but also that these are directed towards the particular needs of the four professions. Moreover, a forum is required within which all those with a stake in therapy audit can acknowledge and resolve the different agendas which they may have in the enterprise.
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