Objectives To audit the performance of hospitals in evidence-based prescribing.
Setting All hospitals in England were invited to participate. The audit was completed in 62 hospitals.
Subjects Prescribing and clinical data were collected on 100 consecutive medical inpatients aged ≥ 65 years at each site, enabling evaluation of eight prescribing indicators before and after intervention. The data were collected using a specifically designed database.
Interventions The results of the first audit were available immediately from the software and a national report with locally identifiable information was returned to hospitals. Hospitals were encouraged to design and deliver their own intervention strategy. A questionnaire was sent to all hospitals to document prioritization of indicators.
Results Generic names were used for 36 061 (82.6%) in 1999 and 39 188 (86.4)% in 2000. In 1999, 50% (3074) of patients had documentation of allergy status. This increased to 60% (3684) in 2000. For 21.2% of patients prescribed paracetamol in 1999 and 18.1% in 2000, the prescription was written such that it was possible to exceed the maximum recommended dose of 4 g in 24 hours. Long-acting hypoglycaemic drugs were prescribed to 29 patients in 1999 and 20 patients in 2000. Anti-thrombotics were used appropriately for 54% (520/966) of patients in atrial fibrillation in the first audit and 57% (579/1019) in the second audit. The appropriate use of aspirin increased from 91% (595/651) to 94% (725/772) and the appropriate use of benzodiazepines dropped from 49% (537/1088) to 47% (460/966) between the audits. For three indicators, the allocating of a high priority translated into a bigger improvement between the audits.
Conclusions Local ownership of data and the quality improvement process, and provision of national benchmarking data did not result in a significant improvement in prescribing in the second audit.