WHO World Patient Safety Day 2023: Engaging Patients for Patient Safety

WHO World Patient Safety Day 2023: Engaging Patients for Patient Safety

This year's theme for the World Health Organization's World Patient Safety Day (17 September) is Engaging Patients For Patient Safety, in recognition of the crucial role patients, families and caregivers play in the safety of health care. Active patient involvement, both in their own personal care as well as at a strategic organisational level, is vital to help improve healthcare provision, and the RCSEd is delighted to support this year's WPSD theme. 

The RCSEd Patient Safety Group have produced a number of blogs as part of a campaign to mark World Patient Safety Day. In this introductory blog, Anna Paisley, Consultant General Surgeon, RCSEd Council Member and Patient Safety Group Chair, provides a brief introduction to the WHO WPSD, highlights what the College is doing to mark this important day and runs through some of the College’s current patient safety initiatives.


The Patient Safety Group (PSG) of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) are delighted to lend our enthusiastic support to the fifth World Patient Safety Day (WPSD). This event, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 and which takes place on the 17th September every year, helps to raise global awareness amongst all stakeholders about key Patient Safety issues. Each year a new theme is selected to highlight a priority patient safety area for action.

The theme set by the WHO for this year’s WPSD is “Engaging patients for patient safety”, recognising the central role that patients, their families and carers play in advancing safe care. As users of the healthcare system with first-hand experience of the entire patient journey, the perspectives of these groups are invaluable in improving patient safety.

Evidence shows that when patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and health outcomes. By sharing their concerns, expectations and experiences of safe and unsafe care, patients are a vital source of learning and improvement. By becoming active members of the health care team, patients can not only contribute to the safety of their own care but also that of the health care system as a whole.

WHO Resolution WHA72.6 embeds patient and family engagement as a fundamental principle in safe patient care and urges Members States “to put into place systems to support the active engagement, participation and empowerment of patients, families and communities in the delivery of safer health care”.

In order to shift the paradigm of patient-centredness from care designed “for patients” to care designed “with patients”, patient and family engagement has been included as one of the seven strategic objectives of the WHO’s Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030.

Through the slogan “Elevate the voice of patients!”, the WHO calls on all stakeholders to take action to ensure that patients are active partners in their own care, as well as involved in policy formulation, represented in governance structures, and engaged in co-designing safety strategies. For this to happen, opportunities must be provided at local, national and international levels for patients, families, and communities to become engaged, empowered and make their voices heard.

The WHO have set four key objectives for this year’s WPSD day:

  • Raise global awareness of the need for active engagement of patients, families and caregivers in all settings and at all levels of health care to improve patient safety.
  • Engage policy-makers, health care leaders, health care workers, patients’ organisations, civil society and other stakeholders in efforts to engage patients and families in the policies and practices for safe health care.
  • Empower patients and families to be actively involved in their own health care and in the improvement of safety of health care.
  • Advocate urgent action on patient and family engagement, aligned with the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030, to be taken by all partners.

The WHO have also provided practical advice for all stakeholders on how to enhance patient engagement in healthcare, both at a personal level in an individual’s own care and also at an organisational level to help shape health care policy.

WPSD 2023 at the RCSEd

To mark this year’s WPSD, the College will be running a series of blogs and talking heads on key surgical and dental topics in this area. These have been provided by patients, families and carers, alongside members of the College’s Patient Safety Group, College Council and the wider College fellowship. The College’s eleven Surgical Specialty Boards (SSBs) have been asked to provide blogs on how patient involvement in their individual specialty has helped to drive up standards of care.

The blogs will provide examples of how patients and carers can play vital roles in making decisions about their own individual care and also how they can enhance the safety of the healthcare system as a whole by contributing to strategic decisions at organisational level.

Two blogs will be released on each day of the College’s week-long WPSD campaign, starting on Monday 11th September (today) and leading up to WPSD on Sunday 17th September. Members and Fellows will have access to these through the College website following the campaign. I hope that you find all of these interesting.

Monday 11th September

  • Edith Scott, one of our patient representatives on the College’s Patient Safety Group, tells us how she enjoys giving back to the healthcare system after all the care she has received.

Tuesday 12th September

  • David Alderson, Consultant ENT Surgeon and College Fellow, highlights the impact on patients and relatives when things go wrong in surgery.
  • Jo Gideon, MP and Trustee of Harper-Lee Foundation, and Liam McCarthy, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon and Chair of the College’s SSB in Paediatric Surgery, highlight how patient families can use their experiences of tragic loss to raise public awareness of key patient safety issues, in this case the devastating harm caused by ingestion of button batteries.

Wednesday 13th September

  • In my blog, I will discuss the critical importance of health care staff actively sharing decisions about care with patients, families and carers.
  • Eddie McGill, one of our patient representatives on the College’s Patient Safety Group, shares his observations on contributing to medical student examinations.

Thursday 14th September

  • Angus Watson, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Council Member and Chair of the College’s Research Committee, explores the crucial role patients play in enhancing surgical research.
  • Faisal Jawad, a UK Cardiothoracic Specialty Trainee, talks to us about how patient groups have played a pivotal role in shaping policies and enhancing care in cardiothoracic surgery.

Friday 15th September

  • Manoj Kumar, Consultant Upper GI Surgeon, College Fellow and Lead of Healthcare Improvement Scotland Team based Quality Review (TBQR) team, shares his insights on how patients can contribute to significant event reviews.
  • Claire Morgan, Consultant in Restorative Dentistry, Dental Council Member and Dental Council representative on the College’s Patient Safety Group, highlights NHS England’s current initiatives on patient inclusion through PSIRF and LFPSE.

Saturday 16th September

  • Andrew Martindale, Consultant Urologist and College Regional Surgical Advisor, discusses the key role that patients play in service redesign.
  • Neil Fenn, Consultant Urologist and Chair of the College’s SSB in Urology, shares the great success of his unit’s patient directed blood monitoring in prostate cancer surveillance.

Sunday 17th September

  • Claire Morgan and Sarah Manton, Director of the College’s Faculty of Dental Trainers and former Vice Dean of the Dental Faculty, discuss how patient involvement has improved dental care.
  • Chelliah Selvasekar, Consultant General Surgeon and Chair of the College’s SSB in General Surgery, explains how patients have driven up standards in stoma care support services.

The College's Commitment to Patient Safety

 Upholding patient safety and ensuring the highest possible standards of patient care have been at the heart of the College’s activity since it was founded over 500 years ago. The Patient Safety Group supports and coordinates all the College’s Patient Safety initiatives. We have a multidisciplinary membership drawn from all the faculties of the College and including representation from both the wider surgical team and patients themselves.

Over the years, the College has worked hard to develop numerous resources to help improve patient safety. These have taken many forms and include:

Patient, Carer Support: The Patient Safety Group has worked hard over the last few years to develop high quality, innovative and accessible resources to support surgical and dental patients and their carers. It is hoped that these resources will help patients to better navigate surgical care and empower them to be advocates for their own health.

Training Courses: These include the highly successful NOTSS Programme, PINTS Course and DeNTS Course, which aim to educate the whole perioperative team in the non-technical skills which underpin safe operative surgery and dentistry, and the innovative ICONS workshop which was developed with patients to provide training in sharing the complex decisions involved in informed consent.

Web-based Resources: These include the Surgical Ward Round Toolkit which aims to reduce errors and improve safety on surgical ward rounds.

Patient Safety Webinars: This very popular 10-part series featured contributions from renowned world experts in the patient safety arena drawn from a wide range of disciplines.

Let’s Talk Surgery Patient Safety Podcasts: These experts have also contributed to the College’s podcast series allowing more in-depth personal discussion on key Patient Safety topics. All sessions were recorded and remain available to College members and fellows on the Education section of our website.

Surgeons News Articles: The Patient Safety Group has published a large number of articles in Surgeons News covering a broad range of patient safety topics.

MSc in Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors: We have also worked with the University of Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Surgery On-Line Programme to develop an MSc in Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors. This 3-year part-time programme supports any graduate health care professional in using evidence-based tools to improve the safety of everyday health care systems.

National Campaigns: These include the very successful LetsRemoveIt campaign, running since 2017, to reduce bullying and undermining, and its resultant detrimental effect on patient safety, in the surgical and dental workplace. A large range of resources have been developed to help in this area and the College were instrumental in forming the anti-bullying alliance with other national bodies.

National Guidelines: The College have also developed several national guidelines to influence healthcare policy & improve the working environment, such as Improving the Working Environment for Safe Surgical Care and Improving Safety Out of Hours.

Staff Resilience and Wellbeing: We also recognize that staff resilience and wellbeing is a major factor in helping to ensure safe patient care. Improving surgical team wellbeing and mental health has been a major focus for the College over the last year. The College Trainees’ Committee has taken the lead in this and the Patient Safety Group have been proud to support them in this endeavor.

The Committee have run very successful wellbeing weeks over the last three years. These raised the awareness of the importance of wellbeing amongst all members of the surgical team and included various activities such as daily webinars, virtual workshops and sessions on cooking, mindfulness, yoga, art and how to make work fun. CPD points for the webinars in the series were provided, underlining the importance that the College places on this subject.

The College’s 'Moon and Back’ campaign, launched in 2021, encourages all members of the surgical team to take time out of their busy schedules to focus on their mental health.

We are also proud to be able to endorse the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Wellbeing Charter for Doctors which describes the principles that guide the wellbeing of doctors and the shared responsibilities for wellbeing of the medical profession.

Please visit the College’s website and social media channels for more information on all these patient safety resources. It is great to be able to share these with you and to help raise awareness of the importance of patient safety in our everyday surgical and dental practice.

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