Patient safety: the need for a national strategy.

Paulo Sousa


Patient safety has become a core issue for many modern healthcare systems. All healthcare systems around the world occasionally and unintentionally harm patients whom they are seeking to help. In recognition of this, patient safety has become a fundamental part of the drive to improve quality in many countries. The effects of harming a patient are widespread. There can be devastating emotional and physical consequence for patients and their families. For the staff involved too, incidents can be distressing, while members of their clinical teams can become demoralised and disaffected. Safety incidents also incur costs through litigation and extra treatment. Patient safety is nowadays a serious problem of public health, with several implications in different clinical areas and level of care. It is crucial to establish priorities, hierarchy's interventions and engaged all stakeholders who are involved around this big issue. In other word, it is important to define a strategy that could reflect a global framework, which allow us to integrate, articulate and be actors action-oriented, with the final aim of reducing the possibilities to harm patients. Consequently, these could contribute for a health care delivery of excellence and based on the best evidence. In the last few years, several studies have estimated that around 4% to 17% of patients have experienced an adverse event, and that up to half of these incidents could have been prevented. Many of them have also showed that, the best way of reducing error rates, is to target the underlying systems failures, rather than take actions against individual members of staff. We should recognise that healthcare will always involve risk, but that these risks can be reduced by analysing and tackling the root causes of patient safety incidents. It is important to promote an open and fair culture, and to encourage staff to report when things have gone wrong.

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