Emerging issues and challenges for improving patient safety in mental health: a qualitative analysis of expert perspectives

J Patient Saf. 2011 Mar;7(1):39-44. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e31820cd78e.


Objectives: It is only recently that patient safety in mental health was considered a field in its own right, and there is a lack of awareness of the issues and a shortage of readily available information. This research builds on existing knowledge by soliciting the expertise of leaders in the area of patient safety and/or mental health via 2 qualitative methods.

Methods: Qualitative interviews were held with 19 key informants. Small group discussions were held during a Canadian invitational roundtable event with 72 participants. A thematic qualitative analysis involving a 2-step process was performed: (1) coding each interview, and (2) identifying larger themes.

Results: The findings revealed that more work is required to establish clear patient safety definitions, develop awareness, set priorities, and develop strategies for responding to patient safety incidents in mental health settings. Establishing a culture of patient safety and embedding it within all levels of an organization is vital, including adopting a systems level approach to examining patient safety incidents, encouraging open reporting and communication, considering the patient/caregiver perspective, and eliminating discrimination and stigma. Patient safety issues pertaining to community care settings are an urgent issue and require greater understanding. The need to promote national leadership, standardization of practice, ongoing training, information sharing, and additional research also was voiced.

Conclusions: The results from this research highlight that greater action is required to improve patient safety in mental health settings. This research has identified several potentially important future directions for improving patient safety in mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking / methods
  • Benchmarking / standards
  • Canada
  • Communication
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Care / standards*
  • Patient Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Safety / standards*
  • Safety / statistics & numerical data