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I know as I say the word ‘audit’, managers will be getting that cold sweat of anticipation running over them with the overwhelming need to ensure everything is in place.
For me years of auditing domiciliary care branches has strengthened my belief in the importance of robust auditing processes and clear quality assurance checks for providers of social care. It can never just be a simple tick box exercise; declaring that the document ‘…is in place and that will be enough’ is not the best mantra to have.
Instead audit must be a way of guiding your care services towards continuous improvement against the regulatory requirements; whilst ensuring that the content and quality of the work also meets the required standards. Having these robust quality assurance processes in place is vital to provide valuable learning and development for an organisation.
Quality Assurance and Audit
Quality assurance ultimately allows us to know we are getting things right and is the underlying thread within any organisation. Interwoven within this thread is the audit function; this will be entirely unique, built upon your own policies and procedures, and may take the form of one tool or a suite of tools that capture specific requirements.
Remember that as an audit forms part of your quality assurance processes, it should meet the outcomes and/or standards that you want to achieve within your own quality framework.
It was always interesting from my days of travelling to different branches, the stigma associated with audit and the dread at getting things wrong; audit should be embraced and become a natural part of any business. As well as identifying improvements, audit can also be a way of seeing evidence of best practise and sharing these ideas across an organisation. This may lead to changes in policies and procedures, which may otherwise not have been known.
Upon inspection audit will also be an area that is reviewed by the regulator as part of your good governance processes, demonstrating a way of monitoring and measuring improvement, as well as driving continuous development and learning.
The inevitable outcome of audit will be the identification of key improvement areas, which should take the form of an action plan to be able to track progress. This is another integral part of the quality assurance thread and supports the growth of an organisation.
Some Key Tips to writing a robust action plan include:
- Use SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely)
- Be clear about the scope of the action plan
- Set realistic and achievable timeframes
- Do not over complicate the action plan; use a traffic light system to identify what actions are on track
- Update the plan regularly and share progress with others within your organisation.
The prospect of an action plan can seem like a daunting task, an endless list of all the improvement areas that needs to be achieved, and as such can be off putting; but by following these key tips it can become an integrated part of your organisation.
The recent Skills for Care document ‘Guide to improvement- How to improve your service to meet, maintain and exceed CQC standards is a valuable tool in aiding providers to drive continuous improvement. The QCS suite of inspection toolkits supports the new guidance and will help self-audit your services.
So, while you quietly anticipate your next audit, remember that having these practises interwoven within your organisation are paramount to development and improvement and ultimately, positive outcomes for the people using your services.
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