Clinical audit, peer review and CPD

Clinical audits and peer reviews are central to effective quality assurance. They help make sure best practice is being followed, and highlight any improvements in providing care.

All dentists working in the UK are required to carry out clinical audit, although arrangements differ depending on jurisdiction. For example, in Scotland and Northern Ireland audits are part of dentists' NHS terms of service, while in England CQC expects dental providers to show evidence of audit activity, as would HIW in Wales.

Clinical audit

The aim of the clinical audit scheme is to encourage dental professionals to become more critical and structured in how they analyse and learn from their experiences. It is a tool to measure a standard of patient care against recommended standards.

Local arrangements vary. You could contact your local NHS area team or health board for further information about audits - funding may be available.

Suggested topics and further guidance regarding audits is available on (but not limited to) the following websites:

NHS Education for Scotland

College of General Dentistry

HSC Business Services Organisation (Northern Ireland)

Health Education and Improvement Wales


Clinical audit projects

A clinical audit project requires those managing a dental practice to:

  • examine different aspects of their practice
  • implement improvements where necessary
  • re-examine audited areas to either maintain or further improve quality of service.

All audits should have a project outline, including:

  • aims and objectives
  • summary of the methodology
  • timetable
  • a detail of educational source material.

You should keep a full record of the audit, including changes made as a result of its findings. You may be asked for proof of participation by the CQC, HIW or other similar national bodies, or your local NHS body.

Peer review

Peer review allows groups of between four and eight dental professionals to work together to improve quality of service. They do this by:

  • reviewing aspects of practice
  • sharing experiences
  • identifying areas for change.

Each group will discuss which topics they wish to review over a series of meetings, and one member will act as convener.

Peer review projects can be organised informally or overseen by local dental audit and peer review schemes (where approved projects may count towards verifiable CPD).

Both clinical and administrative aspects of practice may be covered, but topics must:

  • be clearly identified and researched before the meetings
  • be relevant to the objective of improving patient care
  • demonstrate how changes can be achieved.

Meetings must be minuted and any conclusions noted, with an action plan to implement any necessary changes.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Clinical audit and peer review activities may be considered as part of dental professionals' CPD. All registered dental professionals are required to complete a specified amount of verifiable CPD in order to maintain their registration. The requirements for verifiable CPD are set out in the GDC's enhanced CPD scheme guidance.

The GDC requires all registrants to keep a written record of a PDP and CPD activity, and to produce this record if requested.

This page was correct at publication on 06/04/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.


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