How Safety Culture Surveys Influence the Quality and Safety of Healthcare Organisations
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Objectives Safety culture surveys have been widely used in healthcare for more than two decades predominantly as a tool for measuring the level of safety culture (as defined as the beliefs and attitudes that staff express about how their organisation ought to work and how it does in fact work). However, there is the potential for the survey process itself to influence the safety culture and working practices in departments and organisations. The objective of this study was to identify the mechanism by which these changes might occur.
Design, setting and participants Mixed methods combining qualitative semi-structured interviews and quantitative scores from patient safety surveys.
This evaluation was conducted across general practice, community and acute hospitals in two NHS regions in England; South West and Greater Manchester. The study was undertaken between 2015 and 2018 during the implementation of a series of Patient Safety Collaboratives. Safety, Communication, Operational Reliability, and Engagement (SCORE) surveys were administered in 15 units, followed by a staff debriefing and a second SCORE survey. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with clinicians (n=61). Results from the first and second surveys were compared in order to test for differences in responses. Sixty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted across participating units and thematically analysed.
Analysis and results Results from the first and second surveys were compared using chi-squared and Fisher’s exact tests. Sixty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted across participating units and thematically analysed.
There was little change in responses between the first and second SCORE surveys. Within general practice there was some improvement in responses in three survey domains; however, these differences were not conclusive. The qualitative interview data demonstrated a beneficial effect on safety culture. Staff stated that the survey debriefings created a new safe space where problems could be discussed and improvement plans created.
Conclusions Safety culture surveys can improve safety culture within departments if they are followed by a process that includes debriefing the staff and working with them to develop improvement plans.
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