Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to measure patient safety culture in five Belgian general hospitals. Safety culture plays an important role in the approach towards greater patient safety in hospitals.
Design/methodology/approach: The Patient Safety Culture Hospital questionnaire was distributed hospital-wide in five general hospitals. It evaluates ten patient safety culture dimensions and two outcomes. The scores were expressed as the percentage of positive answers towards patient safety for each dimension. The survey was conducted from March through November 2005. In total, 3,940 individuals responded (overall response rate = 77 per cent), including 2,813 nurses and assistants, 462 physicians, 397 physiotherapists, laboratory and radiology assistants, social workers and 64 pharmacists and pharmacy assistants.
Findings: The dimensional positive scores were found to be low to average in all the hospitals. The lowest scores were "hospital management support for patient safety" (35 per cent), "non-punitive response to error" (36 per cent), "hospital transfers and transitions" (36 per cent), "staffing" (38 per cent), and "teamwork across hospital units" (40 per cent). The dimension "teamwork within hospital units" generated the highest score (70 per cent). Although the same dimensions were considered problematic in the different hospitals, important variations between the five hospitals were observed.
Practical implications: A comprehensive and tailor-made plan to improve patient safety culture in these hospitals can now be developed.
Originality/value: Results indicate that important aspects of the patient safety culture in these hospitals need improvement. This is an important challenge to all stakeholders wishing to improve patient safety.