WHO calls for urgent action to reduce patient harm in healthcare

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent action to combat patient harm, which causes millions of preventable deaths annually.

The WHO, also called on countries to increase their investments and efforts toward reducing patient harm.

Information gathered from WHO official website reveals that millions of patients are harmed each year due to unsafe health care worldwide.

As part of this campaign, the organisation said it will host the first-ever World Patient Safety Day Sept. 17.

The UN agency said that the situation results in 2.6 million, mostly avoidable deaths, annually in low-and middle-income countries alone.

According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, no one should be harmed while receiving health care.

“ Globally, at least five patients die every minute because of unsafe care.

“We need a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and creates a blame-free environment where health workers are empowered and trained to reduce errors,” he said.

WHO says that four out of every ten patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory health care, adding that the most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines.

“Medication errors alone cost an estimated 42 billion U.S. dollars annually.
“Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25 per cent of patients resulting in one million deaths during or immediately after surgery annually.

“Patient harm in health care is unacceptable and WHO is calling for urgent action by countries and partners around the world to reduce patient harm in health care.

“Patient safety and quality of care are essential for delivering effective health services and achieving universal health coverage,’’ it stated.

It added that investment in improving patient safety can lead to significant financial savings.

“The cost of prevention is much lower than the cost of treatment due to harm.

“As an example, in the United States alone, focused safety improvements led to an estimated 28 billion U.S. dollars in savings in Medicare hospitals between 2010 and 2015.

“Greater patient involvement is the key to safer care; engaging patients can reduce the burden of harm by up to 15 per cent, saving billions of dollars each year,’’ it stated.

WHO says that, on the very first World Patient Safety Day, it is prioritising patient safety as a global health priority.

It is urging patients, healthcare workers, policy makers and health care industry to speak up for patient safety.

Sept. 17 was established as World Patient Safety Day by the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019.

Lara Olaniyi

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