Objectives: To explore patients' and carers' experiences of rural general practice to identify their perceptions of safety of care. Design, participants and setting: Four focus group interviews were conducted with 26 rural patients and carers in south-west Victoria between September and December 2012. Frequent users of general practice were recruited from local allied health self-management programs and a mothers' group. Focus groups were audio recorded, transcripts were independently analysed and interpreted using narrative methodologies. Results: Participants who had experienced some level of harm were able to comment more extensively on safety aspects of care. Several key themes related to safety were identifi ed from the analysis of all participant narratives. An assumed sense of safety in general practice was predominant, and was infl uenced by participants' level of risk awareness and trust in their general practitioner. Additional unique themes included feelings of vulnerability, desire for an explanation and apology, a forgiving view of mistakes, and preference for GP interpersonal skills over competence. Conclusions: This study revealed new insights into the factors that infl uence patients' and carers' perspectives of safety, and demonstrated the value of incorporating the patient voice into safety research. An assumed sense of safety due to a default position of trust, coupled with limited risk perception, directly contests the current literature on patient involvement in safety. Further exploration is required to determine how patients and carers can eff ectively engage in and assist with improving safety in general practice.
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