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Health systems collaborating with patients, families, and communities to guarantee patient safety is of utmost importance: WHO

Patient safety is a collective responsibility and health systems must work hand-in-hand with patients, families, and communities, so that patients can be informed advocates in their own care, and every person can receive the safe, dignified, and compassionate care they deserve said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said  during a recent conference held conference Geneva, Switzerland, with the slogan "Elevate the voice of patients."

Speaking  at the global conference on patient safety and engagement in Geneva recentlyb Dr. Tedros said,  “Because if it is not safe, it is not care,” added.

The meeting concluded with a broad agreement on its first patient safety rights charter. The charter emphasises the framework of patients' fundamental rights related to healthcare safety and strives to assist the government and stakeholders in protecting patients' voices and their right to safe healthcare.

Patient safety, according to the press release, is an ethical and moral concept founded on the healthcare principle 'First, do no harm,' which is at the heart of efforts to promote quality healthcare and universal health insurance. However, it is believed that one out of every ten patients is harmed, and that over 3 million people die each year as a result of hazardous healthcare systems around the world. The WHO conference focuses on patient education and participation in the reduction of harm and error in the healthcare industry. The goal is to transition from patient-centered care to care that collaborates with patients, families, and carers to reduce the risk of adverse consequences and mistakes.

WHO has developed two new methods to improve patient engagement in healthcare during the summit. The first is a narrative tool kit that encourages sharing of life-threatening stories, while the second is a global knowledge-sharing portal, developed in collaboration with Singapore's Sing Health Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, promoting global resource sharing and best practices.

WHO Patient Safety Envoy, Sir Liam Donaldson, said, "Our health systems are stronger, our work is empowered, and our care is safer when patients and families are alongside us. The journey to eliminate avoidable harm in health care has been a long one, and the stories of courage and compassion from patients and families who have suffered harm are pivotal to driving change and learning to be even safer."

It may be recalled that a  recent WHO survey revealed that there is a large income-based gap in the implementation of patient safety action plans, with only 13% of countries having a patient representative on the governing boards.

 Dr Neelam Dhingra, head of the WHO Patient Safety Flagship Unit, said, Patient engagement and empowerment are at the core of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030, Said, “It is one of the most powerful tools to improve patient safety and the quality of care, but it remains an untapped resource in many countries and the weakest link in the implementation of patient safety measures and strategies. With this World Patient Safety Day and the focus on patient engagement, we want to change that."

During the WHO media briefing, responding to the question regarding the concrete targets incorporated into the TB declaration in terms of the UHC declaration, Dr. Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General of Universal Health Coverage, said, "There are two concrete things that really anchor the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) declaration and sustainable development as well. The first is to ensure all people everywhere have access to an essential package of services."

"The second is in terms of protecting them from the financial consequences of trying to access those services because we are still working out the numbers, but an extraordinary proportion of the world’s population faces substantial financial hardship," he added.

"The second goal is to reverse a trial that has been going in the wrong direction in terms of the people affected by financial hardship and accessing care."

In reply to a question related to the WHO's plans to reinvigorate the sustainable development goals in global health through the agreement developed to be implemented by the world leaders, Dr Aylward said, "What the leaders have been working towards is a declaration that looks back and takes stock of where we are in terms of universal healthcare coverage."

He further mentions the three key points: the first point is the implementation of the primary healthcare model on equity, and the second point is to protect individuals from financial hardship. "The third thing is looking at how we tackle the issue of ensuring we have people on the ground," said Dr Aylward.

In response to a question on COVID booster and WHO suggestion, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, on booster coverage said, "Data we have from our member states looking at coverage and over, in the older adults group, we don’t have data from all countries, but the primary series coverage at a global level is around 82% of older age groups have completed the primary series, and the booster dosage is 58%."

She noted that in Africa it is 8%, in the Eastern Mediterranean region it is 27%, 30% in South East Asia it is 30%,  in Europe it is 68%, and in the western Pacific region it is 75% in terms of booster coverage.

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