The safety and consistency of the care given to hospital inpatients has recently become a particular political and public concern. The traditional 'ward round' presents an obvious opportunity for systematically and collectively ensuring that proper standards of care are being achieved for individual patients. This paper describes the design and implementation of a 'ward safety checklist' that defines a set of potential risk factors that should be checked on a daily basis, and offers multidisciplinary teams a number of prompts for sharing and clarifying information between themselves, and with the patient, during a round. The concept of the checklist and the desire to improve ward rounds were well received in many teams, but the barriers to adoption were informative about the current culture on many inpatient wards. Although the 'multidisciplinary ward round' is widely accepted as good practice, the medical and nursing staff in many teams are failing to coordinate their workloads well enough to make multidisciplinary rounds a working reality. 'Nursing' and 'medical' care on the ward have become 'de-coupled' and the potential consequences for patient safety and good communication are largely self-evident. This problem is further complicated by a medical culture which values the primacy of clinical autonomy and as a result can be resistant to perceived attempts to 'systematize' medical care through instruments such as checklists.