Patients for patient safety

Patient safety is fundamental to delivering quality healthcare

Patients for patient safety


he number of patients injured, disabled or unwell while accessing unsafe healthcare has become an issue of great concern globally. Over 134 million adverse events occur in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries due to unsafe care, resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually.

Patient harm due to adverse events is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide.

Approximately one in every ten patients is harmed while receiving hospital care. Up to 80 percent of these cases can be avoided.

Patient safety is fundamental to delivering quality essential health services. There is a consensus that quality health services should be effective, safe and the centre of attention. In addition, to realise the benefits of quality healthcare, health services must be timely, equitable, integrated and efficient.

To highlight this problem and awareness for taking corrective actions, the World Health Organisation has been observing World Patient Safety Day in September every year since 2019.

Evidence shows that when patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and health outcomes. By becoming active members of the healthcare team, patients can contribute to the safety of their care and that of the healthcare system.

World Patient Safety Day, observed by WHO on September 17 every year, serves as a global platform to emphasise the importance of patient safety in healthcare systems worldwide. The day aims to create awareness and inspire countries to make patient safety a top priority, ultimately striving to eliminate avoidable errors and negative practices within healthcare settings.

The theme this year was Engaging Patients for Patient Safety, in recognition of the crucial role patients, families and caregivers play in the safety of healthcare, raising global awareness of the need for active engagement of patients, their families and caregivers in all settings and at all levels of healthcare to improve patient safety.

Patient and family engagement is a pivotal strategy to advance safety in healthcare. As users of the healthcare system with firsthand experience of the entire patient journey, the perspectives of patients, families and caregivers are invaluable in improving patient safety.

The impact of meaningful patient engagement is remarkable. Some studies have shown a potential reduction in the burden of harm by up to 15 percent, saving countless lives and a lot of costs.

Patient and family engagement was embedded in Resolution WHA72.6 – Global Action on Patient Safety and the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030 as main strategies for moving towards eliminating avoidable harm in health care.

Patient safety is a global concern to ensure the provision of high-quality healthcare. Over 80 percent of safety-related incidents experienced by patients are preventable by fostering continuous safety culture improvements.

When patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and health outcomes.

In the health systems of developing countries, a patient safety culture characterised by transparency, communication, teamwork and strong leadership is essential to ensure that patients receive reliable and safe care. Moreover, other unfavourable factors, such as staffing shortages, insufficient structures and overcrowding, a lack of healthcare supplies and inadequate hygiene and sanitation, contribute to unsafe healthcare delivery in developing countries.

A comprehensive approach is necessary to effectively manage this situation.

On the other hand, since the emergence of Covid-19 cases, the country demands strict safety measures to be taken by the public through simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well-ventilated, avoiding crowds and cleaning hands, etc.

We need to establish a culture of adopting health safety measures at household and community levels not only to address the threat of something like Covid-19 but also to protect us against other epidemic diseases.

Many births in Pakistan happen at home. In such a situation expecting women do not know where they will deliver their babies and in what health conditions. This opens a new episode of patient safety procedures including medication safety, at large.

Self-medication, a serious issue, would be safe if a person had proper and adequate familiarity with its dosage, efficacy and side-effects. However, due to limited knowledge, it can cause serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems and bacterial resistance. In less advanced countries, such as Pakistan and India, people have very limited knowledge regarding risks associated with self-medication. This leads to a high prevalence rate and the emergence of new cases of antibiotic resistance.

The Public Health Commission, as a regulatory body, ensures patient safety in public as well as private healthcare establishments (HCEs). The commission focuses on institutionalising mechanisms at HCEs that reduce the risk of preventable harm to patients. To achieve this objective, it has defined minimum service delivery standards (MSDS) developed for 12 types of HCEs, including four categories of hospitals, basic health units, homoeopathic clinics, dental clinics, rural health centres, matabs, clinics of general practitioners, clinical laboratories and radiological diagnostic facilities.

Based on a comprehensive and internationally accepted framework, the MSDS encompass all aspects of service delivery, emphasising patient safety.

An international conference on safety and quality in healthcare was organised on September 21-23 in Lahore. This conference was held in collaboration with the University of Lahore, Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, Aga Khan University, Indus Hospital Health Network and Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. The conference highlighted trends in quality care accreditation and patient safety around the globe.

World Patient Safety Day calls for global solidarity and concerted action by all countries and international partners to improve patient safety. The day brings together patients, families, caregivers, communities, health workers, healthcare leaders, policy-makers and society in general to show their commitment to patient safety.

The writer is a playwright and freelance journalist. He can be reached at and his blogging site:

Patients for patient safety