Improving safety in care homes: protocol for evaluation of the Walsall and Wolverhampton care home improvement programme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes



Improving safety in care homes is becoming increasingly important. Care home residents typically have multiple physical and/or cognitive impairments, and adverse events like falls often lead to hospital attendance or admission. Developing a safety culture is associated with beneficial impacts on safety outcomes, but the complex needs of care home residents, coupled with staffing pressures in the sector, pose challenges for positive safety practices to become embedded at the individual and organisational levels. Staff training and education can positively enforce safety culture and reduce the incidence of harms, but improvement initiatives are often short lived and thorough evaluation is uncommon. This protocol outlines an evaluation of a large-scale care home improvement programme in the West Midlands.

The programme will run in 35 care homes across Walsall and Wolverhampton over 24 months, and we anticipate that 30 care homes will participate in the evaluation (n = 1500 staff). The programme will train staff and managers in service improvement techniques, with the aim of strengthening safety culture and reducing adverse safety event rates. The evaluation will use a pre-post design with mixed methods. Quantitative data will focus on: care home manager and staff surveys administered at several time points and analysis of adverse event rates. Data on hospital activity by residents at participating care homes will be compared to matched controls. Qualitative data on experience of training and the application of learning to practice will be collected via semi-structured interviews with staff (n = 48 to 64) and programme facilitators (n = 6), and staff focus groups (n = 36 to 48 staff). The primary outcome measure is the change in mean score on the safety climate domain of the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire between baseline and programme end.

This mixed methods evaluation of a large-scale care home improvement programme will allow a substantial amount of qualitative and quantitative data to be collected. This will enable an assessment of the extent to which care home staff training can effectively improve safety culture, lower the incidence of adverse safety events such as falls and pressure ulcers, and potentially reduce care home resident's use of acute services.


Original languageEnglish
Article number86
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2017


  • Care homes, Evaluation, Improvement, Mixed methods, Safety, Training