This paper critically examines how criteria are formulated and applied in quality assurance or quality improvement systems. It begins by drawing attention to the division that exists between criteria derived by so-called expert groups and those developed more locally by practitioners. In seeking to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of these two contrasting approaches, it explores the more fundamental questions of how criteria are formulated in general and how they can best be applied. And evaluative framework is offered as a working checklist for practitioners involved in criteria formulation. The framework identifies three main areas: actual construction of criteria; procedures for formulation and issues related to application. An example of each area is offered from results of the ODySSSy† † The ODySSSy Project is a 3 year Department of Health funded study looking at the impact of a nursing quality assurance package (The Royal College of Nursing Dynamic Standard Setting System, DySSSy) on nursing practice and patient outcomes. Project. The paper concludes by recommending more systematic studies in this highly complex area.
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