OBJECTIVES--To investigate perceptions of family health service authorities and medical audit advisory groups of advisory groups' involvement in clinical audit and wider quality issues; communication with the authorities; and manager satisfaction. DESIGN--National postal questionnaire survey in 1994. SETTING--All family health services authority districts in England and Wales. SUBJECTS--Chief executives or other responsible authority officers and advisory group chairpersons in each district. MAIN MEASURES--Priorities of advisory group and authority for audit; involvement of advisory group in wider quality issues; communication of information to, and contacts with, the authority and its involvement in planning the future work of the advisory group; and authorities' satisfaction. RESULTS--Both groups' views about audit were similar and broadly consistent with current policy. Advisory group involvement in wider quality issues was extensive, and the majority of both groups thought this appropriate. Much of the information about their activities collected by advisory groups was not passed on to the authority. The most frequent contact between the two groups was the advisory group's annual report, but formal personal contact was the most valued. Most authority respondents thought their views had been recognised in the advisory group's planning of future work; only a small minority were not satisfied with their advisory groups. Dissatisfied respondents received less information from their advisory groups, had less contact with them, and thought they had less input into their plans. There was some evidence that advisory groups in the "dissatisfied districts" were less involved in clinical audit and with their authorities in wider quality issues. CONCLUSIONS--Most advisory groups are developing their activities in clinical audit and have expanded their scope of work. The quality and availability of information about progress with audit is a cause for concern to both groups.
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