Progress on patient safety on track

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published the Global patient safety report 2024, which gives the first insight into the state of patient safety globally and highlights key areas for improvement. The report found that since the Global Patient Safety Action Plan (GPSAP) 2021–2030 was adopted in 2021, the implementation of policies, programmes, and strategic interventions to improve patient safety is on track, although progress against a number of core indicators has been limited.

The landmark report provides a valuable, and previously unavailable, insight into the progress countries are making to prevent avoidable harm to patients and reduce risks through establishing systems to support safe practices, technologies and environments.

The report found that only around one third of countries have developed national action plans and programmes for patient safety, despite patient safety being recognized as a global health priority. At the same time, over 70% of countries have made commendable progress in working towards establishing national programmes for the occupational health and safety of health workers.

Patients’ easy access to their medical records is fundamental to improving safety, and currently around 80% of countries have established procedures in place. However, globally, patient engagement and funding to implement patient safety interventions are areas of particular concern. Only 11% of countries reported that sufficient financial resources were allocated to implement all planned patient safety interventions.

In 2023, World Patient Safety Day focused on the critical importance of patient and family engagement. Despite this, the report revealed a lack of emphasis on patient and family engagement, with only 13% of countries having patient representatives on the governing board of the majority (> 60%) of hospitals. It is imperative that patients or family members of those who have experienced avoidable harm are engaged in designing solutions and shared decision-making at the point of care.

“Unsafe care affects millions of patients each year; an estimated 1 in 10 patients will experience harm from adverse events whilst receiving healthcare,” said Dr Rudi Eggers, Director of Integrated Health Services Department, WHO. “The Global patient safety report is a critical milestone in our efforts to enhance patient safety globally. It highlights the progress made and the challenges that remain, calling for concerted action to protect patients from harm. We urge all Member States and stakeholders to prioritize patient safety as a fundamental component of universal health coverage.”

This is the first global report on the implementation of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan (GPSAP) 2021–2030, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2021 to improve patient safety in all settings and at all levels of care provision. Recognizing that patient safety is fundamentally a systems issue, the action plan employs a comprehensive approach that supports the provision of safe care.

The report measures the progress of over 100 Member States against 7 strategic objectives established in GPSAP: policy development; building reliable organizations; ensuring the safety of clinical processes; engaging patients and families; enhancing health worker education, skills and safety; improving information, research and risk management; and fostering synergy, partnerships and solidarity.

The WHO Global patient safety report is an essential resource for policy-makers, clinical leaders, health and care workers, patient safety advocates, academics and researchers. It provides valuable insights into specific areas requiring attention and investment, recognizing the uneven progress in patient safety measures across different regions. WHO will continue to work with all stakeholders to use the data from this report to target interventions and build stronger, safer health systems.

The full report is available at here.

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