Patient’s safety: a health challenge

World Patient Safety Day calls for concerted action by all countries to improve patients’ safety

Every day, someone in the world suffers avoidable harm due to receiving unsafe care or risks being harmed while receiving healthcare. As a result of this, there is a danger that unsafe healthcare will undermine global efforts in setting up Universal Health Coverage.

Someone said at the 72nd World Health Assembly (June 2019): “In my country, people are afraid to go to hospitals as they think they will come out in a coffin or with a severe disability. Hospitals and healthcare services stand the risk of being empty if the community does not trust them”.

Safety in healthcare is a global concern because it increases the number of people suffering from avoidable harm or being put at risk of injury while receiving healthcare. Harm to patients due to adverse events is a leading cause of death and disability everywhere in the world.

Each year, an estimated 134 million adverse events occur due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, contributing to 2.6 million deaths, while approximately 1 in 10 patients is harmed at the time of receiving hospital care; up to 80 percent of harm in these settings can be avoided. To realise the benefits of quality healthcare, health services must be timely, equitable, integrated and efficient.

Recognising patient safety as a global health priority, all 194 WHO member states at the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019 endorsed the establishment of World Patient Safety Day to be marked annually on September 17. The objectives of the day are to increase public awareness and engagement and action to promote patient safety.

The WHO says that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the huge challenges and risks health workers are facing globally, including healthcare-associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness and death.

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, health care leaders and policy-makers and society in general to show their commitment to patient safety.

It is also important to recognise the impact of patient safety in reducing costs related to patient harm and improving efficiency in healthcare systems. The provision of safe services will also help to reassure and restore communities’ trust in their health care systems.

Eighty hospitals in Pakistan are implementing the Patient Safety Friendly Hospital Initiative (PSFHI), a WHO-led programme that puts into practice a harmonised set of evidence-based patient safety standards to which hospitals should adhere to ensure safer care. It offers a platform for integrating patient safety priorities where infection prevention and control (IPC), including hand hygiene and standard precautions, are critical components — a crucial and timely asset in a Covid-19-stricken world.

It is reported that Pakistan has recently developed and launched National Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control and inaugurated a new Centre for Occupational and Patient Safety (COPS) at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

In its report of May 4, 2020, the WHO states that in underdeveloped countries, including Pakistan, the risk of dying due to a preventable medical accident while receiving healthcare, is estimated to be one in 300. In addition to that, 15 percent of hospital expenses can be attributed to treating patient safety failures in these countries.

Healthcare management in Pakistan is primarily the responsibility of provincial governments, except in case of federally administered territories and establishments. However, the federal government takes care for planning and formulating national health policies. Each provincial government has established a department of health with the mandate to protect the health of its citizens by providing preventive and curative services. The Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) has promulgated provincial health standards to regulate healthcare services at public and private hospitals.

The PHC, as a regulatory body, should ensure patient safety in public and private healthcare establishments (HCEs) working towards high-quality and safe healthcare services. The Commission focuses on institutionalising mechanisms at HCEs that reduce the risk of preventable harm to patients. To achieve this objective, it has defined in Minimum Service Delivery Standards (MSDS) developed for 12 types of HCEs, including four categories of hospitals, basic health units, homeopathic clinics, dental clinics, rural health centres, matabs, clinics of general practitioners, clinical laboratories and radiological diagnostic facilities.

The MSDS make it mandatory for HCEs staff to monitor adverse events and reactions and analyse these for corrective and preventive action. During inspections, PHC surveyors look for the documentation of such incidents, including real and suspected blood transfusion reactions, anesthesia-related complications, surgical site infections etc. These practices create a system that reduces the chance of errors and misuse; ensuring that the right patient is given the right dose of the right drug, at the right time and through the right route.

The improvement level of patient safety has a direct bearing on the number of lives saved and disabilities prevented as a result of the medical care provided to general and hospitalized patients.

The writer is a freelance   contributor. He can be reached at

Patient’s safety: a health challenge