Qual Saf Health Care 14:185-189 doi:10.1136/qshc.2004.010983
  • Original Article

A qualitative study of why general practitioners may participate in significant event analysis and educational peer assessment

  1. P Bowie1,
  2. J McKay1,
  3. E Dalgetty2,
  4. M Lough1
  1. 1Department of Postgraduate Medical Education, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2NHS Education for Scotland, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrP Bowie
 Associate Adviser, NHS Education for Scotland, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW, UK;
  • Accepted 19 February 2005


Objectives: To explore the influences and perceived benefits behind general practitioners’ willingness to participate in significant event analysis (SEA) and educational peer assessment.

Design: Qualitative analysis of focus group transcripts.

Setting: Greater Glasgow Primary Care Trust.

Participants: Two focus group sessions involving 21 principals in general practice (GPs).

Main outcome measures: GPs’ perceptions of the reasons for and benefits of participating in SEA and associated educational peer assessment.

Results: Pressure from accreditation bodies and regulatory authorities makes SEA compulsory for most participants who believe more in-depth event analyses are undertaken as a result. Some believed SEA was not an onerous activity while others argued that this depended on the complexity of the event. SEA that is linked to a complaint investigation may provide credible evidence to patients that their complaint is taken seriously. Writing up an event analysis is viewed as an educational process and may act as a form of personal catharsis for some. Event analyses are submitted for peer assessment for educational reward but are highly selective because of concerns about confidentiality, litigation, or professional embarrassment. Most participants disregard the opportunities to learn from “positive” significant events in favour of problem ones. Peer assessment is valued because there is a perception that it enhances knowledge of the SEA technique and the validity of event analyses, which participants find reassuring.

Conclusions: This small study reports mainly positive feedback from a select group of GPs on the merits of SEA and peer assessment.