Background: Reducing avoidable harm in maternity services is a priority globally. As well as learning from mistakes, it is important to produce rigorous descriptions of ‘what good looks like’. Objective: We aimed to characterise features of safety in maternity units and to generate a plain language framework that could be used to guide learning and improvement. Methods: We conducted a multisite ethnography involving 401 hours of non-participant observations 33 semistructured interviews with staff across six maternity units, and a stakeholder consultation involving 65 semistructured telephone interviews and one focus group. Results: We identified seven features of safety in maternity units and summarised them into a framework, named For Us (For Unit Safety). The features include: (1) commitment to safety and improvement at all levels, with everyone involved; (2) technical competence, supported by formal training and informal learning; (3) teamwork, cooperation and positive working relationships; (4) constant reinforcing of safe, ethical and respectful behaviours; (5) multiple problem-sensing systems, used as basis of action; (6) systems and processes designed for safety, and regularly reviewed and optimised; (7) effective coordination and ability to mobilise quickly. These features appear to have a synergistic character, such that each feature is necessary but not sufficient on its own: the features operate in concert through multiple forms of feedback and amplification. Conclusions: This large qualitative study has enabled the generation of a new plain language framework—For Us—that identifies the behaviours and practices that appear to be features of safe care in hospital-based maternity units.
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Funding: Health Foundation (THIS Institute), Wellcome Trust
Senior Investigator Award (WT097899MA) and NIHR Senior
Investigator Award (NF- SI-0617-10026).
- Original research
- qualitative research
- healthcare quality improvement
- patient safety
- obstetrics and gynecology