Home PH Important Day World Patient Safety Day: Speak up for health worker safety!

World Patient Safety Day: Speak up for health worker safety!

by Public Health Update

The World Patient Safety Day is a global campaign to improve patient safety, celebrated each year on on 17th September. Recognizing 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 (Resolution WHA72.6), to be marked annually on 17 September.


The campaign aims to mobilize patients, health workers, health leaders, policy-makers, academics, researchers, professional networks, the private sector and health care industry to speak up for health worker safety to improve the safety of health care, and reduce the risk of harm, both to health workers and patients.

The objectives of World Patient Safety Day are to increase public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding, and spur global solidarity and action to promote patient safety.

World Patient Safety Day 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the huge challenges and risks health workers are facing globally including health care associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness and even death. Furthermore, working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm. Therefore, the World Patient Safety Day 2020:

  • Theme: Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety
  • Slogan: Safe health workers, Safe patients
  • Call for action: Speak up for health worker safety! 

Key Facts

  • 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, contributing to 2.6 million deaths annually.
  • 15% of hospital expenses can be attributed to treating patient safety failures in OECD countries.
  • 4 out of 10 patients are harmed in the primary and ambulatory settings; up to 80% of harm in these settings can be avoided.
  • One in every 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care.
  • The occurrence of adverse events due to unsafe care is likely one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability across the world.
  • At least 1 out of every 7 Canadian dollars is spent treating the effects of patient harm in hospital care.
  • Investment in patient safety can lead to significant financial savings.
  • Unsafe medication practices and medication errors harm millions of patients and costs billions of US dollars every year.
  • Inaccurate or delayed diagnosis is one of the most common causes of patient harm and affects millions of patients.
  • Hospital infections affect up to 10 out of every 100 hospitalized patients.
  • More than 1 million patients die annually from complications due to surgery.
  • Medical exposure to radiation is a public health and patient safety concern.
Call for action
Health workers
  • Your own safety starts with you: Take care of your physical and psychological health
  • Protect your safety and that of the people you care for
  • Ensure you are trained and aware of infection prevention and control and implement appropriate measures
  • Proactively contribute to building and strengthening a safety culture at work
  • Improve your knowledge, skills and competencies for safety in health care
  • Know your rights and responsibilities and call for a safe work environment
  • Always report safety risks, violence, harassment or threats to the authorities
  • Promote and implement innovative safety practices within your organization
Policy-makers, regulators, parliamentarians, insurance and legal entities, external evaluation organizations (health, labour, environment and security sectors)
  • Formulate, update and implement policies and legislation to ensure the safety of health workers and patients
  • Develop and promote legislation for the protection of health workers’ and patients’ rights
  • Ensure appropriate and sufficient personal protective equipment and hand hygiene items, as well as the provision of a supportive, safe working environment and sufficient resources to improve the safety of working conditions in health care settings
  • Increase staffing levels and create the means to empower health workers: this will prevent infections, improve the quality of care and ensure a culture of patient safety
  • Co-design safety programmes with professional associations, health workers, patient organizations, civil society organizations, communities and trade unions
  • Implement ethical principles for managers and policy-makers that include the duty to provide safe health care, and the duty to protect health workers’ safety and patients’ safety
  • Enact legal and regulatory provisions which prohibit violence against health workers and patients
Health care leaders, administrators and managers
  • Create an open, equitable and transparent safety culture for health workers and patients which allows the reporting of safety incidents in a timely manner
  • Create a supportive, safe working environment and implement innovative safety practices based on a human factors and ergonomics approach
  • Empower health workers to provide safe and clean care
  • Ensure appropriate training and guidance in infection prevention and control
  • Provide sufficient resources to improve the safety of working conditions in health care settings
  • Engage health workers, patients and their families in continuous safety improvement practices
  • Prioritize and invest in occupational health and safety to improve patient safety
  • Implement activities on promoting role modelling and mental health to alleviate stress in the workplace
  • Ensure that mechanisms for the reward and motivation of health workers are in place and used appropriately
Academic and research institutions
  • Generate evidence in the area of health worker safety and patient safety, including infection prevention and control, to inform policy, regulations and standards of practice
  • Incorporate health worker safety, patient safety and infection prevention and control in educational curricula and continuing professional development, with a focus on human factors and ergonomic design principles
  • Develop e-learning modules to deliver appropriate training for both health workers and patients
  • Prioritize safety research in primary care and in low- and middle-income settings
  • Conduct research to identify strategies for supporting the mental and emotional well-being of health workers
  • Develop indicators to measure progress and improvements in health worker safety, and patient safety, including infection prevention and control
Patients, families, caregivers, communities and the wider public
  • Provide accurate information about your health and medical history
  • Safer care for you, starts with you: be aware and demand appropriate infection prevention and control practices
  • Enhance your knowledge about safety in health care
  • Raise safety concerns with your health providers
  • Advocate for the safety and protection of health workers at facility and community levels
  • Be actively involved in your own care
  • It is good to ask questions: safe health care starts with good communication
Professional associations, international organizations, developmental partners, labour unions
  • Work with governments to develop and promote legislation for the protection of health workers’ and patients’ rights
  • Work with governments to develop and promote legislation for the implementation of infection prevention and control, including access to sufficient and appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Prioritize and invest in health worker safety and patient safety
  • Promote and protect health workers’ safety through capacity-building, advocacy and assisting in implementing safety standards
  • Speak up against unsafe working conditions and violence against health workers
  • Support health workers in their right to have a safe working environment
  • Systematically monitor compliance with the regulations related to the health and safety of health workers
Patient and civil society organizations
  • Engage different stakeholders and advocate for changes in systems, practices and policies for achieving safer health care
  • Promote the voice of patients in their own safety and the safety of health workers
  • Safer care for you, with you: be aware and demand appropriate infection prevention and control
  • Advocate for safety in health care, including safe working conditions for all health workers and in all health care facilities, as a minimum requirement
  • Advocate for infection prevention and control, including personal protective equipment for health workers, as well as hand hygiene
  • Mobilize the local community for providing support to community health workers and protecting their safety
  • Advocate for more research in the area of safety in health care
Industry/private sector (e.g., pharmaceutical industry, medical devices manufacturers, IT, digital developers)
  • Invest in the innovation of cost-effective interventions to improve the safety of patients and health workers
  • Ensure continuous and regular supply chain management to avoid stock-outs of safety commodities
  • Ensure continuous and regular supply chain management for personal protective equipment and alcohol-based handrub for hand hygiene
  • Co-design medical devices with health workers and patients based on a human factors and ergonomics approach, to ensure safety
  • Provide access to data (for instance on the safe use of medical devices) to inform safety interventions.

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