Key points

  • The strategies that have shown most promise in improving patient safety target the key causes of harm in primary care:
    • clinical complexity (via computerised prescribing and alert systems)
    • human factors (via pharmacist input)
    • systems issues (using learning collaboratives, audit and feedback, and discharge planning to improve interfaces with secondary care).

Compared with hospital care, there is relatively little research about improving patient safety in primary care. The evidence that does exist is of variable quality, with a large number of simple observational studies describing strategies implemented at single organisations.

This evidence scan collates empirical evidence that addresses the following questions:

  • What initiatives have been implemented to improve safety in primary care and what are the impacts of these initiatives?
  • How have patients, professionals, researchers and funders been involved?
  • Are there ongoing studies or media stories about this topic?

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