Home Global Health News The Montreux Charter on Patient Safety galvanizes action to address avoidable harm in health care

The Montreux Charter on Patient Safety galvanizes action to address avoidable harm in health care

by Public Health Update

The Fifth Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety was held in Montreux, Switzerland on 23 and 24 February with the slogan “Less Harm, Better Care – from Resolution to Implementation”

The Fifth Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety closed in Montreux, Switzerland on 24 February, after endorsing the Montreux Charter on Patient Safety with recommended actions to address avoidable harm in health care.  This was the first Global Ministerial Patient Safety Summit to take place after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the high risk of unsafe care to patients, health workers and the general public, and made visible a range of safety gaps across all core components of health systems.  The Summit was hosted by the Swiss government.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, participated in the Summit with the host, the Swiss President Alain Berset.  In his address to the ministerial segment, Dr Tedros urged health ministers to invest in patient safety as part of their commitment to universal health coverage and health security; to build a culture of safety and strengthen reporting and learning systems; to support health workforce and strengthen their capacity; to strengthen data systems; and to engage patients and families in their own care.  Dr Tedros announced that the theme for World Patient Safety Day 2023 will be “Engaging patients for patient safety”.  

In Montreux, delegations from more than 80 countries discussed the gaps and key challenges for the implementation of the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA72.6) “Global Action on Patient Safety” and the global roadmap for patient safety, the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030: Towards eliminating avoidable harm in health care

Despite progress to address patient safety challenges worldwide, concerted efforts are needed to ensure safety of patients and health and care workers, noted the delegations and stressed that lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis hold huge potential to build safer and more resilient health systems.

The Montreux Charter on Patient Safety, endorsed at the Summit, reaffirms that patient harm in health care is an urgent public health issue, pertinent to countries of all income settings and geographies and therefore a shared global challenge.  It identifies actions for countries to narrow implementation gaps in patient safety, including by treating patient safety as a global public health priority, building upon lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, deepening partnerships, collaboration and mutual learning, and engaging patients and their families.  The Charter also urged setting priorities for patient safety, including medication safety, safe surgery, infection prevention and control, and antimicrobial resistance.

Unsafe care is among the leading causes of death and disability in the world.  It is particularly acute in resource-constrained settings.  In the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, 2.6 million people died every year due to safety lapses in hospitals in lower-income countries.  Rich countries are not immune: nearly 15 per cent of hospital expenditure and activity in countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development could be attributed to treating safety failures.

It is estimated that more than half of cases of patient harm are preventable, by working together to create a safer healthcare system for all and to build a culture of safety that emphasizes continuous improvement, learning, and innovation.

The Summit in Montreux builds on the preceding Global Ministerial Summits on Patient Safety which have raised awareness about burden of avoidable patient harm in health care and fostered strategic approaches to strengthening Patient Safety, from London (2016), to Bonn (2017), to Tokyo (2018) and to Jeddah (2019).  

The Sixth Summit will be held in Chile in 2024. 

WHO 28 February 2023

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