Patient safety incidents defined as any unintended or unexpected incident that could have or were judged to have led to patient harm, are reported as relatively common. In this study patient complaints have been used as an indicator to uncover the occurrence of patient safety incidents in primary care emergency units (PCEUs) in Norway.
Ten PCEUs in major cities and rural parts of Norway participated. These units cover one third of the Norwegian population. A case-control design was applied. The case was the physician that evoked a complaint. The controls were three randomly chosen physicians from the same PCEU as the physician having evoked the complaint. The following variables regarding the physicians were chosen: gender, citizenship at, and years after authorization as physician, and specialty in general practice. The magnitude of patient contact was defined as the workload at the PCEU. The physicians’ characteristics and workload were extracted from the medical records from the fourteen-day period prior to the consultation that elicited the complaint. The rest of the variables were then obtained from the Norwegian physician position register. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratio for complaints both unadjusted and adjusted for the independent variables. The data were analyzed using SPSS (Version25) and STATA.
A total of 78 cases and 217 controls were included during 18 months (September 1st 2015 till March 1st 2017). The risk of evoking a complaint was significantly higher for physicians without specialty in general practice, and lower for those with medium low and medium high workload compared to physicians with no duty during the fourteen-day period prior to the index consultation. The limited strength of the study did not make it possible to assess any correlation between workload and the other variables (physician’s gender, seniority and citizenship at time of authorization).
Continuous medical training and achieving the specialty in general practice were decisively associated with a reduced risk for complaints in primary care emergency services. Future research should focus on elements promoting quality of care such as continuing education, duty rosters and other structural and organizational factors.

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