Background: In quality improvement activities such as audit, some general practices succeed in improving care and some do not. With audit of care likely to be one of the major tools in clinical governance, it would be helpful to establish what features of primary health care teams are associated with successful audit in general practice.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to identify those features of primary health care teams that were associated with successful quality improvement during systematic audit of diabetes care.
Method: Semi-structured tape-recorded interviews were carried out with lead GPs and practice nurses in 18 general practices in Leicestershire that had the opportunity to improve their care and had completed two data collections in a multipractice audit of diabetes care. The interviewees were asked to describe their practice's approach to audit and the transcripts were coded for common features and judged for strength of feeling by blinded independent raters. Features common to practices that had, and those that had not, managed to improve diabetes care were identified.
Results: Six features were identified reliably in the transcripts by blinded independent raters. Four were significantly associated with the successful improvement of care. Success was more likely in teams in which: the GP or nurse felt personally involved in the audit; they perceived their teamwork as good; they had recognized the need for systematic plans to address obstacles to quality improvement; and their teams had a positive attitude to continued monitoring of care. A positive attitude to audit and a personal interest in the disease were not associated with improvement in care.
Conclusions: Success in improving diabetes care is associated with certain organizational features of primary health care teams. Experimental studies are required to determine whether the development of teamwork enables practice teams to identify and overcome systematically the obstacles to improved quality of patient care that face them.