BACKGROUND: Several efforts have been made to change management of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in nursing homes, however only few were successful. Numerous barriers to change in healthcare were identified, yet only one conceptual model is known to study their interrelationships. Unfortunately, this model does not discuss specific barriers encountered in nursing home practice. The aim of this study is to explore perceived barriers to change in the management of NPS in nursing homes and to construct a conceptual framework providing insight into the relative importance and interrelationships of these barriers when improving quality of care. METHODS: Four focus groups were conducted in different dementia special care units of one Dutch nursing home. Participants were either nursing staff, treatment staff or relatives of residents. Qualitative thematic analysis was conducted according to the five phases defined by Braun & Clarke. Finally, a conceptual framework showing the interrelations of barrier-themes was constructed using text fragments of the focus groups. RESULTS: We constructed a conceptual framework consisting of eight themes of barriers explaining the extent to which change in NPS-management can be achieved: 'organizational barriers', 'personal barriers', 'deficiency of staff knowledge', 'suboptimal communication', 'inadequate (multidisciplinary) collaboration', 'disorganization of processes', 'reactive coping' and 'differences in perception'. Addressing 'organizational barriers' and 'deficiency of staff knowledge' is a precondition for change. 'Suboptimal communication' and 'inadequate (multidisciplinary) collaboration' play a key role in the extent of change achieved via the themes 'differences in perception' and 'disorganization of processes'. Furthermore, 'personal barriers' influence all themes - except 'organizational barriers' - and may cause 'reactive coping', which in turn may lead to 'difficulties to structure processes'. CONCLUSIONS: A conceptual framework was created explaining the relationships between barriers towards achieving change focused on improving management of NPS in nursing homes. After this framework has been confirmed and refined in additional research, it can be used to study the interrelatedness of barriers to change, and to determine the importance of addressing them for achieving change in the provided care.