The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) and the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct suggest that veterinary surgeons should undertake clinical audit as part of clinical governance (RCVS 2015a, b). Despite the emphasis put on the importance of conducting clinical audit, the reality of how it is currently used in farm animal practice in the UK has not been previously described.
An online questionnaire asking for clinical audit experiences was developed and distributed through a number of different channels to UK farm animal veterinary surgeons. The questionnaire consisted of open, closed and multiple choice questions. Background information about the veterinary surgeon, details on the most recent audit conducted and data relating to audits set up and participated in were collected. The veterinary surgeons were also asked to share any suggestions that may aid other vets in conducting clinical audit.
The survey received 332 responses in two months. Forty-four percent (147/332) of the respondents worked in farm animal practice, while 30% (100/332) worked in mixed practice. Year of graduation of the respondents ranged from 1975 – 2015. The majority of the veterinary surgeons had received little or no undergraduate or postgraduate training in clinical audit and 148/301 (49%) had not participated in clinical audit in any species. One hundred and twenty-six practitioners had previously been involved in farm animal clinical audit. The most common topic for previously conducted audit was caesarean sections.
Twenty-two percent (41/184) of practitioners had carried out audit to meet RCVS PSS requirements, while 86/184 (47%) had wished to gather information on what happened in their practice. Relative ease, caseload, assessing what is currently done, improving services and responding to significant events were listed as some of the reasons for choosing an audit topic. Advice, from the respondents, for other veterinary surgeons planning audit included “make it simple and easy”, “do it, you might surprise yourself” and “be prepared for arguments”!
Clinical audit can play an important part in improving the services offered by farm animal veterinary practices. Its current use however is very varied. Understanding experiences, considering concerns and taking into account the thoughts of veterinary surgeons is vital when creating guidance for the profession, or when choosing a single topic to audit in a practice setting.