Safety and wellbeing as spatial capacities: an analysis from two ethnographic studies in primary care and palliative care contexts

Suzanne Grant (Lead / Corresponding author), Aileen Collier

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Patient safety and quality of care are increasing concerns for healthcare internationally. This paper examines the spatial achievement of safety and wellbeing by healthcare staff, patients and their carers within UK primary care and Australian palliative care contexts. Two key socio-spatial modes of safety and wellbeing were found across these healthcare contexts. The technical mode was spatially managed by staff and driven by formal approaches to safety with a limited focus on wellbeing. In contrast, the relational mode was driven by attentiveness to the wellbeing and spatial engagement of staff, patients and carers that drew on informal elements of safety. Both modes extended across public, private, biomedical and administrative spaces, with technical and relational safety-wellbeing configurations often inhabiting the same spaces. Differences also existed across primary and palliative care contexts that reflected the unique pressures present within each context, and the ability of people and places to adapt to these demands. In the context of increasing workloads in healthcare internationally, this study highlights the benefits of attending as much to the relational dimensions of safety and quality of care as to the technical ones through increased focus on the safety and wellbeing of healthcare staff, patients and carers within and beyond traditional sites of care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-252
Number of pages9
JournalHealth & Place
Early online date10 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Palliative care
  • Patient safety
  • Primary care
  • Space
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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