Between 1989 and 1995, she starred as obstreperous surgeon Sheila Sabatini in the ITV sitcom Surgical Spirit, her most high-profile acting role to date. She also appeared in the long-running soap operaCoronation Street between 2001 and 2002. Other TV roles were in "The Sound of Drums", a Doctor Who episode screened on 23 June 2007, and in My Family as the judge in episode "Life Begins at Fifty".
As well as writing several plays, McAuliffe has published two novels, The Crime Tsar, based loosely on Macbeth; and A Fanny Full of Soap, a comic novel about the pre-West End run of a stage musical, plus a children's story, Attila, Loolagax and the Eagle, both in 2003. She is also an occasional contributor to newspapers such as the Daily Mail.
McAuliffe is married to Don MacKay, a crime reporter for the Daily Mirror. She is a patron of Action for Children's Arts, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of creative arts among children under 12.