Patient safety

Patient safety: a global health priority

Recalling resolution WHA55.18 (2002), which urged Member States to “pay the closest possible attention to the problem of patient safety and to establish and strengthen science-based systems, necessary for improving patients’ safety and the quality of health care”, the seventy-second World Health Assembly (WHA72), in May 2019, adopted WHA72.6, a resolution on ‘Global action on patient safety’, also recognizing patient safety as a global health priority and endorsing the establishment of World Patient Safety Day to be observed annually on 17 September, echoing that no one should be harmed in health care.

The global patient safety movement was strengthened when Member States and non-State actors in official relations with the World Health Organization presented their statements at the WHA72 emphasizing the centrality of patient safety in health services delivery for a strengthened health care system, and the importance of governments and policy makers to prioritize patient safety in their policies and programmes. Patient safety was identified crucial for countries to progress towards universal health coverage as extending heath care should mean extending safe care.

Key stakeholders in shaping the global patient safety agenda at national and local level include for example policy makers formulating patient safety policies and committing sufficient resources within the country to implement national patient safety action plans; health workers and leaders ensuring patient empowerment and engagement and speaking up for patient safety during the provision of health services; research and academic institutions scoping patient safety as a key research agenda, building leadership as well as compassionate and competent health workforce capacity through patient safety education and training. The governing principle is that patient safety is at the heart of universal health coverage and should be made a global health priority.