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“Patient Safety needs to be integrated in the concept of quality of care” – Niek Klazinga OECD Health Division

Patient Safety is a public health issue and needs to be considered a cross sector topic in healthcare policies and upcoming health system reforms. In order to measure EU Member States progress on tacking patient safety including healthcare-associated infections and anti-microbial resistance, Health First Europe (HFE) has developed 11 policy indicators and scrutinised several EU Member States. HFE calls on the European Commission and EU Member States to use effectively these 11 policy indicators to drive and foster the implementation of better standards regarding patient safety in Europe.

John Bowis, HFE Honorary President, stated that “patient safety remains a critical issue as 8-12% of patients admitted to hospital in the EU still suffer from adverse events while receiving healthcare. An estimated 4.1 million patients per year in the EU acquired a healthcare infection, and at least 37 000 die as result”. Since the adoption of the Council Recommendation on patient safety, including the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections in June 2009, EU Member States have taken actions to minimising harm to patients receiving healthcare and to preventing HAIs. However, despite the positive steps, little has been done to set definite and tangible targets for improving patient safety and quality of care. To fill in this gap, HFE launched 11 Patient Safety indicators which cover a broad range of areas from general patient safety policy, to areas like education and training of healthcare workers in patient safety, empowering patients and developing culture of learning from errors, screening and surveillance programmes and use of innovation to reduce HAIs and AMR. HFE believes that these indicators can accelerate the implement of EU patient safety policies by facilitating better uptake of best practices across EU Member States.

According to Mr Klazinga, Head of the Health Care Quality Indicators Project at the OECD, “patient safety is an important issue in the overall healthcare system that should not be isolated”. In particular, “patient safety is a component of high-quality, sustainable healthcare services, which needs to be integrated at all levels”. There is the need to improve it through action programmes, indicators and new strategies at national, institutional and clinical level. Mr Klazinga (OECD) pointed out that ‘getting information is critical for tackling patient safety issues’ and ‘the more accurate statistics are, the more likely are patients to feel confident to provide information’. The OECD has been a pioneer of this approach and its monitoring work has offered a clear map on healthcare-associated infections in Europe.

Participants focused on the need to promote a blame-free culture in healthcare settings where patients and professionals can report errors to create an equitable and transparent process for recognizing such mistakes. To this regards, Mr Bowis stressed the accent on one hand on the education and training for healthcare profession as a critical tool to raise awareness of patient safety and, on the other hand on patient empowerment as well as the relationship between healthcare professionals and individuals to foster a patient safety culture. From the side of the European Commission, Mr Federico Paoli outlined how patient safety is a priority for the European Commission and several EU member States have shown their commitment to keen working in the Patient Safety & Quality of Care Expert Group.

While it is clear that there is a raised awareness in Europe on patient safety, all health stakeholders emphasised that there is a need for continued effort at EU level to support Member States in improving patient safety and quality of care. Mr Klazinga emphasised how “patient safety has no boundaries and is part of an intercultural dimension”. EU policymakers in close collaboration with Member States and stakeholders need to keep working on patient safety and quality of care by promoting the exchange of good practices, effective solutions and a better understanding of the cost-effectiveness of patient safety policies under the principles of efficacy, efficiency, appropriateness, safety and quality of care.

Check HFE Patient Safety indicators here.