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By exploring patients’ perceptions and experiences researchers have identified a wide variety of factors perceived to impact on patient safety in primary care.

The findings of a recent study published in Family Practice could help to better understand patient safety in primary care, as current frameworks are largely based on health professionals’ perspectives.

The qualitative study took place in the South of England and involved four focus groups with a sample of 27 primary care users. Researchers found that participants’ conceptualizations of patient safety referred to high standards of health care delivery within a relationship of trust. Participants identified four main factors that they believed could potentially affect patient safety. These included factors relating to: the patient (attitudes, behaviours and health literacy); the health professional (attitudes, behaviours and accuracy of diagnosis); the relationship between patients and health professionals (communication and trust); and the health care system (workload, resources, care co-ordination, accessibility, interdisciplinary teamwork and accuracy of health care records). Confidentiality, continuity of care and treatment-related safety emerged as cross-cutting major threats to patient safety.

Co-author Dr Ignacio Ricci-Cabello from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said "So far most of the research in the area of patient safety has relied on information from health professionals, and very little attention has been paid to patients themselves. This study was very helpful to better understand how patients perceive and understand patient safety in primary care; which was crucial to successfully develop the Patient Reported Experiences and Outcomes of Safety in Primary Care (PREOS-PC) questionnaire - a new patient-centred tool to measure patient safety in general practices."


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