'The big buzz': a qualitative study of how safe care is perceived, understood and improved in general practice

Thumbnail Image
File version
Version of Record (VoR)
de Wet, Carl
Bowie, Paul
O'Donnell, Catherine
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

Background: Exploring frontline staff perceptions of patient safety is important, because they largely determine how improvement interventions are understood and implemented. However, research evidence in this area is very limited. This study therefore: explores participants’ understanding of patient safety as a concept; describes the factors thought to contribute to patient safety incidents (PSIs); and identifies existing improvement actions and potential opportunities for future interventions to help mitigate risks.

Methods: A total of 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 general practitioners, 12 practice nurses and 11 practice managers in the West of Scotland. The data were thematically analysed.

Results: Patient safety was considered an important and integral part of routine practice. Participants perceived a proportion of PSIs as being inevitable and therefore not preventable. However, there was consensus that most factors contributing to PSIs are amenable to improvement efforts and acknowledgement that the potential exists for further enhancements in care procedures and systems. Most were aware of, or already using, a wide range of safety improvement tools for this purpose. While the vast majority was able to identify specific, safety-critical areas requiring further action, this was counter-balanced by the reality that additional resources were a decisive requirement.

Conclusion: The perceptions of participants in this study are comparable with the international patient safety literature: frontline staff and clinicians are aware of and potentially able to address a wide range of safety threats. However, they require additional resources and support to do so.

Journal Title
BMC Family Practice
Conference Title
Book Title
Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Rights Statement
Item Access Status
Access the data
Related item(s)
Health services and systems
Public health
Persistent link to this record