Patient safety

Policies and strategies

One of WHO’s core functions is to articulate ethical and evidence‐based health policy options. In line with this function, WHO’s work on patient safety facilitates the development of patient safety policies and strategies in Member states. Guidance on policies and strategies provided in WHO publications linked below can strengthen the efforts of WHO Member States in developing safer and sustainable health care systems for improving patient safety.


The global need for quality of care and patient safety was first discussed during the World Health Assembly in 2002, and resolution WHA55.18 on ‘Quality of care: patient safety’ at the Fifty-fifth World Health Assembly urged Member States to “pay the closest possible attention to the problem of patient safety”. Since then, there have been several international initiatives, which have brought the importance of the matter to the attention of policy-makers in many countries, including:

  • Development of global norms and standards;
  • Promotion of evidenced-based policies;
  • Promotion of mechanisms to recognize excellence in patient safety internationally;
  • Encouragement of research;
  • Provision of assistance to countries in several key areas.

These resolutions illustrate that the drive for safer health care is a worldwide endeavour, bringing significant benefits to patients in low-, middle- and high-income countries, in all corners of the globe.

Global Ministerial Summits on Patient Safety

In 2015 the United Kingdom Department of Health and the German Federal Ministry of Health initiated a series of Global Ministerial Summits on Patient Safety to bring together international experts and engage with Ministers of Health and other high-ranking political decision-makers and galvanize action on patient safety.

Key events