17th September: World Patient Safety Day


Every day, patients all over the world suffer avoidable harm or risk being harmed while receiving healthcare. Providing safe care is one of the main challenges on the road to universal health coverage. The purpose of the first World Patient Safety Day on September 17th is to raise global awareness of patient safety, and make it a priority for all stakeholders.

Primum non nocere, “Above all, do no harm” is a fundamental ethical principle for medical professionals. Indeed, ensuring patient safety seems to be a straightforward aim, as restoring health is the focus of medical care. And yet, patient safety is a serious global public health concern and patient harm is the 14th leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, comparable to diseases such as tuberculosis or malaria.

Worldwide, nearly one in four patients is harmed during healthcare treatment. Medication errors are among the most frequent causes of harm and cost an estimated USD 42 billion globally every year1. Among all hospital acquired infections (HAIs) surgical site infections (SSI) are currently the second most common cause in Europe. Health authorities such as the Robert Koch Institute (KRINKO) have published recommendations for avoiding SSI in all three phases of an operation. As the number of surgical procedures continues to rise, measures to prevent SSI and increase patient safety have become become increasingly important. Recognising the importance of making patient safety a priority, the 72nd World Health Assembly endorsed in May 2019 the introduction of the World Patient Safety Day (WPSD) to be observed annually on 17 September.

Patient safety: a priority for all stakeholders

Coordinating the efforts aimed at enhancing the safety of healthcare and providing technical support are main tasks of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The introduction of new technologies, more research and findings, new medicines and new treatment modalities has made today’s healthcare more effective, but in many cases also more complex. The growing pressure of providing a cost-effective medical care for patients as they become older, sicker but also more empowered influences the quality of healthcare as well.

On the first-ever World Patient Safety Day, the WHO will launch a global campaign to raise awareness and to encourage all stakeholders to commit to making healthcare safer. The collaboration among governments, the healthcare industry, health professionals, hospitals, professional organisations, patient organisations, and patients is key to achieving necessary improvements in patient safety. Stakeholders are confident that a joint effort is more effective than isolated measures. The main objectives of the WPSD are:

  • Raising awareness of patient safety issues
  • Encouraging the development of procedures for eliminating avoidable harm to patients
  • Encouraging governments to support the implementation of such procedures
  • Strengthening the collaboration among the different stakeholders

The Aktionsbündnis Patientensicherheit: a joint initiative for improving patient safety

“We still haven’t managed to noticeably reduce preventable patient harm. There’s still a lot to be done,” says Hedwig François-Kettner, chair of Germany’s Alliance for Patient Safety (Aktionsbündnis Patientensicherheit)2. “All participants must, within their remit, take responsibility for the development of an improved safety culture.” This German non-profit organisation was founded in 2005 to promote strategies aimed at ensuring safe healthcare and since then has been a major player in finding solutions for patient safety issues. The WPSD will give the opportunity to all organisations involved in patient safety to present their activities to a wider public under the motto “Safety culture at all levels”. This represents an important step toward ensuring safe universal health coverage and helps medical practitioners to be faithful to the “do no harm” principle.

Further information

  1. Patient Safety, WHO
  2. Website Patient Safety Day, Aktionsbündnis Patientensicherheit
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