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1.  Patient safety skills in primary care: a national survey of GP educators 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):206.
Clinicians have a vital role in promoting patient safety that goes beyond their technical competence. The qualities and attributes of the safe hospital doctor have been explored but similar work within primary care is lacking. Exploring the skills and attributes of a safe GP may help to inform the development of training programmes to promote patient safety within primary care.
This study aimed to determine the views of General Practice Educational Supervisors (GPES) regarding the qualities and attributes of a safe General Practitioner (GP) and the perceived trainability of these ‘safety skills’ and to compare selected results with those generated by a previous study of hospital doctors.
This was a two-stage study comprising content validation of a safety skills questionnaire (originally developed for hospital doctors) (Stage 1) and a prospective survey of all GPES in Scotland (n = 691) (Stage 2).
Stage 1: The content-validated questionnaire comprised 66 safety skills/attributes across 17 broad categories with an overall content validation index of 0.92.
Stage 2: 348 (50%) GPES completed the survey. GPES felt the skills/attributes most important to being a safe GP were honesty (93%), technical clinical skills (89%) and conscientiousness (89%). That deemed least important/relevant to being a safe GP was leadership (36%). This contrasts sharply with the views of hospital doctors in the previous study. GPES felt the most trainable safety skills/attributes were technical skills (93%), situation awareness (75%) and anticipation/preparedness (71%). The least trainable were honesty (35%), humility (33%) and patient awareness/empathy (30%). Additional safety skills identified as relevant to primary care included patient advocacy, negotiation skills, accountability/ownership and clinical intuition (‘listening to that worrying little inner voice’).
GPES believe a broad range of skills and attributes contribute to being a safe GP. Important but subtle differences exist between what primary care and secondary care doctors perceive as core safety attributes. Educationalists, GPs and patient safety experts should collaborate to develop and implement training in these skills to ensure that current and future GPs possess the necessary competencies to engage and lead in safety improvement efforts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12875-014-0206-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4275946  PMID: 25515429
General practice; Patient safety; Medical education; Skills
2.  Quality and safety issues highlighted by patients in the handling of laboratory test results by general practices–a qualitative study 
In general practice internationally, many care teams handle large numbers of laboratory test results relating to patients in their care. Related research about safety issues is limited with most of the focus on this workload from secondary care and in North American settings. Little has been published in relation to primary health care in the UK and wider Europe. This study aimed to explore experiences and perceptions of patients with regards to the handling of test results by general practices.
A qualitative research approach was used with patients. The setting was west of Scotland general practices from one National Health Service territorial board area. Patients were purposively sampled from practice held lists of patients who received a number of laboratory tests because of chronic medical problems or surveillance of high risk medicines. Focus groups were held and were audio-recorded. Tapes were transcribed and subjected to qualitative analysis. Transcripts were coded and codes merged into themes by two of the researchers.
19 participants from four medical practices took part in four focus groups. The main themes identified were: 1. Patients lacked awareness of the results handling process in their practice. 2. Patients usually did not contact their practice for test results, unless they considered themselves to be ill. 3. Patients were concerned about the appropriateness of administrators being involved in results handling. 4. Patients were concerned about breaches of confidentiality when administrators were involved in results handling. 5. Patients valued the use of dedicated results handling staff. 6. Patients welcomed the use of technology to alert them to results being available, and valued the ability to choose how this happened.
The study confirms the quality and safety of care problems associated with results handling systems and adds to our knowledge of the issues that impact in these areas. Practices need to be aware that patients may not contact them about results, and they need to publicise their results handling processes to patients and take steps to reassure patients about confidentiality with regards to administrators.
PMCID: PMC4048051  PMID: 24885953
3.  Factors influencing the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors: a systematic review 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:76.
Multisource feedback (MSF) is currently being introduced in the UK as part of a cycle of performance review for doctors. However, although it is suggested that the provision of feedback can lead to a positive change in performance and learning for medical professionals, the evidence supporting these assumptions is unclear. The aim of this review, therefore, was to identify the key factors that influence the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors.
Relevant electronic bibliographic databases were searched for studies that aimed to assess the impact of MSF on professional practice. Two reviewers independently selected and quality assessed the studies and abstracted data regarding study design, setting, MSF instrument, behaviour changes identified and influencing factors using a standard data extraction form.
A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria and quality assessment criteria. While seven studies reported only a general change in professional practice, a further seven studies identified specific changes in behaviour. The main professional behaviours that were found to be influenced by the feedback were communication, both with colleagues and patients and an improvement in clinical competence/skills. The main factors found to influence the acceptance and use of MSF were the format of the feedback, specifically in terms of whether it was facilitated, or if narrative comments were included in the review, and if the feedback was from sources that the physician believed to be knowledgeable and credible.
While there is limited evidence suggesting that MSF can influence professional performance, the quality of this evidence is variable. Further research is necessary to establish how this type of feedback actually influences behaviours and what factors have greatest influence.
PMCID: PMC4011765  PMID: 24725268
Systematic review; Multisource Feedback; Physicians; Assessment; Revalidation
4.  Laboratory test ordering and results management systems: a qualitative study of safety risks identified by administrators in general practice 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e004245.
To explore experiences and perceptions of frontline administrators involved in the systems-based management of laboratory test ordering and results handling in general medical practice.
Qualitative using focus group interviews.
West of Scotland general medical practices in three National Health Service (NHS) territorial board areas.
Convenience samples of administrators (receptionists, healthcare assistants and phlebotomists).
Transcript data were subjected to content analysis.
A total of 40 administrative staff were recruited. Four key themes emerged: (1) system variations and weaknesses (eg, lack of a tracking process is a known risk that needs to be addressed). (2) Doctor to administrator communication (eg, unclear information can lead to emotional impacts and additional workload). (3) Informing patients of test results (eg, levels of anxiety and uncertainty are experienced by administrators influenced by experience and test result outcome) and (4) patient follow-up and confidentiality (eg, maintaining confidentiality in a busy reception area can be challenging). The key findings were explained in terms of sociotechnical systems theory.
The study further confirms the safety-related problems associated with results handling systems and adds to our knowledge of the communication and psychosocial issues that can affect the health and well-being of staff and patients alike. However, opportunities exist for practices to identify barriers to safe care, and plan and implement system improvements to accommodate or mitigate the potential for human error in this complex area.
PMCID: PMC3918986  PMID: 24503302
Qualitative Research
5.  Applying the trigger review method after a brief educational intervention: potential for teaching and improving safety in GP specialty training? 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:117.
The Trigger Review Method (TRM) is a structured approach to screening clinical records for undetected patient safety incidents (PSIs) and identifying learning and improvement opportunities. In Scotland, TRM participation can inform GP appraisal and has been included as a core component of the national primary care patient safety programme that was launched in March 2013. However, the clinical workforce needs up-skilled and the potential of TRM in GP training has yet to be tested. Current TRM training utilizes a workplace face-to-face session by a GP expert, which is not feasible. A less costly, more sustainable educational intervention is necessary to build capability at scale. We aimed to determine the feasibility and impact of TRM and a related training intervention in GP training.
We recruited 25 west of Scotland GP trainees to attend a 2-hour TRM workshop. Trainees then applied TRM to 25 clinical records and returned findings within 4-weeks. A follow-up feedback workshop was held.
21/25 trainees (84%) completed the task. 520 records yielded 80 undetected PSIs (15.4%). 36/80 were judged potentially preventable (45%) with 35/80 classified as causing moderate to severe harm (44%). Trainees described a range of potential learning and improvement plans. Training was positively received and appeared to be successful given these findings. TRM was valued as a safety improvement tool by most participants.
This small study provides further evidence of TRM utility and how to teach it pragmatically. TRM is of potential value in GP patient safety curriculum delivery and preparing trainees for future safety improvement expectations.
PMCID: PMC3846442  PMID: 24000946
Patient safety; General practice; Primary care; Trigger tool; Clinical record review; GP training; Clinical audit
6.  Can we quantify harm in general practice records? An assessment of precision and power using computer simulation 
Estimating harm rates for specific patient populations and detecting significant changes in them over time are essential if patient safety in general practice is to be improved. Clinical record review (CRR) is arguably the most suitable method for these purposes, but the optimal values and combinations of its parameters (such as numbers of records and practices) remain unknown. Our aims were to: 1. Determine and quantify CRR parameters; 2. Assess the precision and power of feasible CRR scenarios; and 3. Quantify the minimum requirements for adequate precision and acceptable power.
We explored precision and power of CRR scenarios using Monte Carlo simulation. A range of parameter values were combined in 864 different CRR scenarios, with 1000 random data sets generated for each, and harm rates were estimated and tested for change over time by fitting a generalised linear model with a Poisson response.
CRR scenarios with ≥100 detected harm incidents had harm rate estimates with acceptable precision. Harm reductions of 20% or ≥50% were detected with adequate power by those CRR scenarios with at least 100 and 500 harm incidents respectively. The number of detected harm incidents was dependent on the baseline harm rate multiplied by: the period of time reviewed in each record; number of records reviewed per practice; number of practices who reviewed records; and the number of times each record was reviewed.
We developed a simple formula to calculate the minimum values of CRR parameters required to achieve adequate precision and acceptable power when monitoring harm rates. Our findings have practical implications for health care decision-makers, leaders and researchers aiming to measure and reduce harm at regional or national level.
PMCID: PMC3635932  PMID: 23497099
Patient safety; General practice; Primary care; Trigger tool; Clinical record review; Precision; Power; Harm
7.  Training health care professionals in root cause analysis: a cross-sectional study of post-training experiences, benefits and attitudes 
Root cause analysis (RCA) originated in the manufacturing engineering sector but has been adapted for routine use in healthcare to investigate patient safety incidents and facilitate organizational learning. Despite the limitations of the RCA evidence base, healthcare authorities and decision makers in NHS Scotland – similar to those internationally - have invested heavily in developing training programmes to build local capacity and capability, and this is a cornerstone of many organizational policies for investigating safety-critical issues. However, to our knowledge there has been no systematic attempt to follow-up and evaluate post-training experiences of RCA-trained staff in Scotland. Given the significant investment in people, time and funding we aimed to capture and learn from the reported experiences, benefits and attitudes of RCA-trained staff and the perceived impact on healthcare systems and safety.
We adapted a questionnaire used in a published Australian research study to undertake a cross sectional online survey of health care professionals (e.g. nursing & midwifery, medical doctors and pharmacists) formally trained in RCA by a single territorial health board region in NHS Scotland.
A total of 228/469 of invited staff completed the survey (48%). A majority of respondents had yet to participate in a post-training RCA investigation (n=127, 55.7%). Of RCA-experience staff, 71 had assumed a lead investigator role (70.3%) on one or more occasions. A clear majority indicated that their improvement recommendations were generally or partly implemented (82%). The top three barriers to RCA success were cited as: lack of time (54.6%), unwilling colleagues (34%) and inter-professional differences (31%). Differences in agreement levels between RCA-experienced and inexperienced respondents were noted on whether a follow-up session would be beneficial after conducting RCA (65.3% v 39.4%) and if peer feedback on RCA reports would be of educational value (83.2% v 37.0%). Comparisons with the previous research highlighted significant differences such as less reported difficulties within RCA teams (P<0.001) and a greater proportion of respondents taking on RCA leadership roles in this study (P<0.001).
This study adds to our knowledge and understanding of the need to improve the effectiveness of RCA training and frontline practices in healthcare settings. The overall evidence points to a potential organisational learning need to provide RCA-trained staff with continuous development opportunities and performance feedback. Healthcare authorities may wish to look more critically at whom they train in RCA, and how this is delivered and supported educationally to maximize cost-benefits, organizational learning and safer patient care.
PMCID: PMC3574857  PMID: 23391260
8.  Combining QOF data with the care bundle approach may provide a more meaningful measure of quality in general practice 
A significant minority of patients do not receive all the evidence-based care recommended for their conditions. Health care quality may be improved by reducing this observed variation. Composite measures offer a different patient-centred perspective on quality and are utilized in acute hospitals via the ‘care bundle’ concept as indicators of the reliability of specific (evidence-based) care delivery tasks and improved outcomes. A care bundle consists of a number of time-specific interventions that should be delivered to every patient every time. We aimed to apply the care bundle concept to selected QOF data to measure the quality of evidence-based care provision.
Care bundles and components were selected from QOF indicators according to defined criteria. Five clinical conditions were suitable for care bundles: Secondary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), Stroke & Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Diabetes Mellitus (DM). Each bundle has 3-8 components. A retrospective audit was undertaken in a convenience sample of nine general medical practices in the West of Scotland. Collected data included delivery (or not) of individual bundle components to all patients included on specific disease registers. Practice level and overall compliance with bundles and components were calculated in SPSS and expressed as a percentage.
Nine practices (64.3%) with a combined patient population of 56,948 were able to provide data in the format requested. Overall compliance with developed QOF-based care bundles (composite measures) was as follows: CHD 64.0%, range 35.0-71.9%; Stroke/TIA 74.1%, range 51.6-82.8%; CKD 69.0%, range 64.0-81.4%; and COPD 82.0%, range 47.9-95.8%; and DM 58.4%, range 50.3-65.2%.
In this small study compliance with individual QOF-based care bundle components was high, but overall (‘all or nothing’) compliance was substantially lower. Care bundles may provide a more informed measure of care quality than existing methods. However, the acceptability, feasibility and potential impact on clinical outcomes are unknown.
PMCID: PMC3523087  PMID: 23043262
9.  Maximising harm reduction in early specialty training for general practice: validation of a safety checklist 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:62.
Making health care safer is a key policy priority worldwide. In specialty training, medical educators may unintentionally impact on patient safety e.g. through failures of supervision; providing limited feedback on performance; and letting poorly developed behaviours continue unchecked. Doctors-in-training are also known to be susceptible to medical error. Ensuring that all essential educational issues are addressed during training is problematic given the scale of the tasks to be undertaken. Human error and the reliability of local systems may increase the risk of safety-critical topics being inadequately covered. However adherence to a checklist reminder may improve the reliability of task delivery and maximise harm reduction. We aimed to prioritise the most safety-critical issues to be addressed in the first 12-weeks of specialty training in the general practice environment and validate a related checklist reminder.
We used mixed methods with different groups of GP educators (n = 127) and specialty trainees (n = 9) in two Scottish regions to prioritise, develop and validate checklist content. Generation and refinement of checklist themes and items were undertaken on an iterative basis using a range of methods including small group work in dedicated workshops; a modified-Delphi process; and telephone interviews. The relevance of potential checklist items was rated using a 4-point scale content validity index to inform final inclusion.
14 themes (e.g. prescribing safely; dealing with medical emergency; implications of poor record keeping; and effective & safe communication) and 47 related items (e.g. how to safety-net face-to-face or over the telephone; knowledge of practice systems for results handling; recognition of harm in children) were judged to be essential safety-critical educational issues to be covered. The mean content validity index ratio was 0.98.
A checklist was developed and validated for educational supervisors to assist in the reliable delivery of safety-critical educational issues in the opening 12-week period of training, and aligned with national curriculum competencies. The tool can also be adapted for use as a self-assessment instrument by trainees to guide patient safety-related learning needs. Dissemination and implementation of the checklist and self-rating scale are proceeding on a national, voluntary basis with plans to evaluate its feasibility and educational impact.
PMCID: PMC3418214  PMID: 22721273
10.  Barriers and attitudes influencing non-engagement in a peer feedback model to inform evidence for GP appraisal 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:15.
The UK general practitioner (GP) appraisal system is deemed to be an inadequate source of performance evidence to inform a future medical revalidation process. A long-running voluntary model of external peer review in the west of Scotland provides feedback by trained peers on the standard of GP colleagues' core appraisal activities and may 'add value' in strengthening the robustness of the current system in support of revalidation. A significant minority of GPs has participated in the peer feedback model, but a clear majority has yet to engage with it. We aimed to explore the views of non-participants to identify barriers to engagement and attitudes to external peer review as a means to inform the current appraisal system.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with a sample of west of Scotland GPs who had yet to participate in the peer review model. A thematic analysis of the interview transcriptions was conducted using a constant comparative approach.
13 GPs were interviewed of whom nine were males. Four core themes were identified in relation to the perceived and experienced 'value' placed on the topics discussed and their relevance to routine clinical practice and professional appraisal: 1. Value of the appraisal improvement activity. 2. Value of external peer review. 3. Value of the external peer review model and host organisation and 4. Attitudes to external peer review.
GPs in this study questioned the 'value' of participation in the external peer review model and the national appraisal system over the standard of internal feedback received from immediate work colleagues. There was a limited understanding of the concept, context and purpose of external peer review and some distrust of the host educational provider. Future engagement with the model by these GPs is likely to be influenced by policy to improve the standard of appraisal and contractual related activities, rather than a self-directed recognition of learning needs.
PMCID: PMC3338401  PMID: 22443714
11.  Verifying appraisal evidence using feedback from trained peers: views and experiences of Scottish GP appraisers 
GP appraisal is currently considered inadequate because it lacks robustness. Objective assessment of appraisal evidence is needed to enable judgements on professional performance to be made.
To determine GP appraisers' views of the acceptability, feasibility, and educational impact of external peer feedback received on three core appraisal activities undertaken as part of this study.
Design of study
Independent peer review and cross-sectional postal questionnaire study.
NHS Scotland.
One of three core appraisal activities (criterion audit, significant event analysis, or video of consultations) was undertaken by GP appraisers and subjected to peer review by trained colleagues. A follow-up postal questionnaire elicited participants' views on the potential acceptability, feasibility, and educational impact of this approach.
Of 164 appraisers, 80 agreed to participate; 67/80 (84%) submitted one of three appraisal materials for peer review and returned completed questionnaires. For significant event analyses (n = 44), most responders believed the peer feedback method was feasible (100%) and fair (92.5%) and would add value to appraisal (95.5%). Peer feedback on criterion audits (n = 15) was believed to be acceptable and fair (93.3%) and it was thought it would be a useful educational tool (100%). Completing a consultation video (n = 8) was perceived to be feasible as part of normal general practice (n = 5). It was unanimously agreed that assessment of videos by peers has educational impact and would help improve appraisal.
This group of GP appraisers strongly supported the role of external and independent feedback by trained peers as one approach to strengthening the existing appraisal process.
PMCID: PMC2702014  PMID: 19566997
appraisal; assessment; feedback; general practice; peer review
12.  A review of significant events analysed in general practice: implications for the quality and safety of patient care 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:61.
Significant event analysis (SEA) is promoted as a team-based approach to enhancing patient safety through reflective learning. Evidence of SEA participation is required for appraisal and contractual purposes in UK general practice. A voluntary educational model in the west of Scotland enables general practitioners (GPs) and doctors-in-training to submit SEA reports for feedback from trained peers. We reviewed reports to identify the range of safety issues analysed, learning needs raised and actions taken by GP teams.
Content analysis of SEA reports submitted in an 18 month period between 2005 and 2007.
191 SEA reports were reviewed. 48 described patient harm (25.1%). A further 109 reports (57.1%) outlined circumstances that had the potential to cause patient harm. Individual 'error' was cited as the most common reason for event occurrence (32.5%). Learning opportunities were identified in 182 reports (95.3%) but were often non-specific professional issues not shared with the wider practice team. 154 SEA reports (80.1%) described actions taken to improve practice systems or professional behaviour. However, non-medical staff were less likely to be involved in the changes resulting from event analyses describing patient harm (p < 0.05)
The study provides some evidence of the potential of SEA to improve healthcare quality and safety. If applied rigorously, GP teams and doctors in training can use the technique to investigate and learn from a wide variety of quality issues including those resulting in patient harm. This leads to reported change but it is unclear if such improvement is sustained.
PMCID: PMC2744665  PMID: 19723325

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