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14 Sep 2020

Clinical Negligence

Measures to be taken across the world to prioritise patient safety

As the World Health Organisation prepares to mark World Patient Safety Day on 17 September, our head of clinical negligence, Ken Thomas, gives his views on why, this year, this annual awareness day is more important than ever.

“In May 2019, all 194 of the WHO member states endorsed the establishment of an annual Patient Safety Day to recognise ensuring the safety of patients as a global health priority.

“Fittingly, the theme for this year is ‘Health Worker Safety’ and the slogan is ‘Safe health workers, safe patients.’

“Never before have all health workers around the world been put under so much collective pressure as during the spike of the Covid-19 pandemic, the biggest challenge and threat that humanity has faced in centuries. Here in the UK, we all saw the distressing images of hospital wards full to bursting with patients suffering from coronavirus and read the upsetting stories of our over-stretched NHS workers who had to work under extreme pressure, with limited PPE or painful, uncomfortable masks, to treat unprecedented numbers of patients.

“In our line of work, we hear every day about cases where patients’ safety has been compromised and see first-hand the devastating impact that this can have on their lives. Clearly, stressful working environments such as those experienced this year in hospitals up and down the country may have made health workers more prone to errors which, in turn, could have led to patient harm.

“We fully support the WHO’s efforts to improve the safety of health workers themselves, not only for their own good but also to ensure the resulting safety of the patients they are treating.

“The first draft of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan, which outlines the actions that are to be taken to ensure patient safety over the next ten years, was published at the end of August. Its vision is ‘a world in which no patient is harmed in health care and everyone receives safe and respectful care, every time, everywhere’ and it details a range of measures that it wants to see taken to achieve this vision.

“One particularly concerning consequence of the Covid pandemic is that even though we are now, thankfully, back down to a manageable number of cases being treated in our hospitals, people’s fears about contracting the virus and lack of trust in the safety of healthcare environments has unfortunately led to many people missing vital medical treatment or not checking out potentially harmful medical concerns.

“During the lockdown, we all put rainbows up in our windows and clapped every Thursday night to show our support and appreciation for the NHS, so as we approach this Patient Safety Day, let’s support its principles through our actions. I’d urge everyone who has a medical issue that they are concerned about not to just hope it will go away but instead, consult the relevant healthcare professional to get the advice and support they need, to avoid any delays with diagnosis. Stringent measures are being taken to contain the spread of the virus in all healthcare settings but if you are concerned about going to the doctor’s surgery or hospital in person, there are a number of alternatives in place.

“As we hope this annual day will highlight, the safety of both healthcare workers and patients should be a huge priority in healthcare settings across the world and despite the massive challenges we are all facing as a result of the pandemic, every patient’s basic right to be treated safely should never be compromised.”

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