World Patient Safety Day 2020

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The 17th September 2020 is recognised globally as World Patient Safety Day. The overall objectives of World Patient Safety Day are to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in the safety of health care and promote global actions to enhance patient safety and reduce patient harm (WHO, 2020).

The theme this year is Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness around the risks and challenges faced daily by healthcare workers including healthcare associated infections, illness, and psychological and emotional disturbances. In addition, working in a stressful environment can lead to errors causing patient harm.

In this blog we discuss some tips to help build a culture of safety that can benefit both the healthcare worker and the patient.

Tips to Build a Culture of Safety

Governance and Management

Effective governance and leadership support are crucial to building an open and transparent culture of safety. When staff trust their leaders, they are more likely to be open and unafraid to speak up about errors, hazards or unsafe working conditions. (ECRI, 2019)

Reporting of incidents

Reporting of ALL incidents and near-misses is crucial. Each one presents an opportunity to improve practice. Analysing incident data and addressing the causes of the near misses and minor incidents could prevent unnecessary patient or staff harm.

Share the lessons learned

Reviewing and analysing incident data is hugely important but so is communicating the lessons learned with staff and the wider health system where possible. Sharing the lessons is an important step in preventing additional harm and making the delivery of care safer.

Reflect on healthcare inquires

HIQA noted in their 2015 report on the HSE Midland’s Regional Hospital Portlaoise, that there was a serious deficiency within healthcare service in relation to its ability to learn from adverse events which consequently result in the same errors being repeated. It is imperative that healthcare providers reflect on the recommendations set out in national healthcare inquires and implement those that are applicable to their service in order to prevent the same errors happening again.

Accept complaints as a gift!

Complaints are an essential form of feedback. They can provide valuable insight into potential risk areas within the service and present opportunities for improvement. Providers should ensure an effective complaints and external feedback mechanism is in place to capture and review all feedback.

Ensure Best Practice in Infection Prevention and Control

Best practice Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures are essential to ensure that both staff and patients are protected in the healthcare environment. The simple task of using consistent hand hygiene practice helps prevent the spread of infections including hospital acquired infections which can result in prolonged hospital stays or even death.

Access to Training Programmes

Healthcare staff should be supported in developing their skills through appropriate and accessible training and professional development programmes. It is essential for healthcare workers to keep their knowledge base up to date with regulatory and best practice advice, particularly in the current environment where public health advice is constantly evolving.

Supports for Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the stressful environments that healthcare staff work in which can lead to such things as burnout or illness. Healthcare providers should put in place measures for occupational health supports for staff to support staff and ensure continuity of health services.

Communication is key!

Communication is important at every level of a health service. Actively listening to patients and staff can give real insight into the quality and safety of a service.

Conduct a patient safety culture survey

Undertaking a staff survey on patient safety culture can really help get an understanding as to where your service stands in terms of embedding a culture of safety. It is a great tool to raise staff awareness around patient safety, give them a voice to raise concerns and to identify risk areas within the service.


Building a culture of safety takes time, leadership support and a willingness to assess errors and implement quality improvement initiatives. Many of the tips we outlined today support the development of a better environment for healthcare workers which in turn will help improve overall patient safety.

World Patient Safety Day

For more information on World Patient Safety Day see the World Health Organisation’s campaign details here:


ECRI (2019). Culture of Safety: An Overview. Available:

Health Information and Quality Authority (2015). Report of the investigation into the safety, quality and standards of services provided by the Health Service Executive to patients in the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. Available:

World Health Organisation (WHO) (2020). World Patient Safety Day. Available:

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