Rationale, aims and objectives: Building a strong and positive safety culture in health care teams and organizations is essential for patient safety. Measuring individual perceptions of safety climate is an integral part of this process. Evidence of the successful application and potential usefulness of this approach is increasingly available for secondary care settings but little is known about the safety climate in UK primary care. We therefore aimed to measure perceptions of safety climate in primary care. Further aims were to determine whether perceptions varied significantly between practice teams and according to specific participant and practice characteristics.
Method: We undertook a cross-sectional, anonymous postal questionnaire survey of randomly selected west of Scotland primary care teams. Safety climate mean scores with standard deviations were calculated for respondents, practice teams and the region.
Results: A total of 563 (84%) team members from 49 practices (24.5%) returned questionnaires. The overall safety climate mean score was 5.48 (0.78). Significant differences in safety climate perceptions were found at the practice team level (P < 0.001) and for specific characteristics: respondents' years of experience, whether they were community or practice based, their professional roles and practices' training status. Practice managers and general practitioners perceived the safety climate more positive than other respondents (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: This was the first known attempt to measure perceptions of safety climate in UK primary care with a validated instrument specifically developed for that purpose. Reported perceptions of the prevailing safety climate were generally positive. This may reflect ongoing efforts to build a strong safety culture in primary care or alternatively point to an overestimation of the effectiveness of local safety systems. The significant variation in perception between certain staff groups has potential safety implications and may have to be aligned for a positive and strong safety culture to be built. While safety climate measurement has various benefits at the individual, practice team and regional level, further research of its association with specific safety outcomes is required.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.