This is the first multi-district Standardised Patient (SP) study in South Africa. It measures the quality of TB screening at primary healthcare (PHC) facilities. We hypothesise that TB screening protocols and best practices are poorly adhered to at the PHC level. The SP method allows researchers to observe how healthcare providers identify, test and advise presumptive TB patients, and whether this aligns with clinical protocols and best practice. The study was conducted at PHC facilities in two provinces and 143 interactions at 39 facilities were analysed. Only 43% of interactions resulted in SPs receiving a TB sputum test and being offered an HIV test. TB sputum tests were conducted routinely (84%) while HIV tests were offered less frequently (47%). Nurses frequently neglected to ask SPs whether their household contacts had confirmed TB (54%). Antibiotics were prescribed without taking temperatures in 8% of cases. The importance of returning to the facility to receive TB test results was only explained in 28%. The SP method has highlighted gaps in clinical practice, signalling missed opportunities. Early detection of sub-optimal TB care is instrumental in decreasing TB-related morbidity and mortality. The findings provide the rationale for further quality improvement work in TB management.
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