Background: Community development plays an important role in increasing the access of disadvantaged groups to resources and services. We examined how community development in primary healthcare services may improve patient safety by involving people in activities that lead to their enhanced use of services.
Methods: Audits of service activity and 68 in-depth interviews at six primary healthcare services in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Managers, practitioners and administration staff, plus regional health service executives and departmental funders participated in the interviews.
Results: Each of the services undertook some community development. Reported benefits included engaging people in health promoting activity, providing people with social contacts and, crucially, encouraging people to use health services.
Discussion: Community development is a means of engaging people who, for a range of reasons, are reluctant to use services and therefore can increase patient safety.