Date Published: 29 November 2005

EU Presidency to foundation for action on patient safety worldwide

Health News from around the world.

" Patient Safety is a global issue and countries throughout the world must get better at working together to provide safer healthcare for their patients", the Secretary of State for Health in England, Patricia Hewitt, said today.

Opening a 3-day summit bringing together patient safety experts from across the EU Member States and the rest of the world, she commended the good work already done and called for further action towards "a lasting legacy of safer healthcare."

To support her calls for improved collaboration the Secretary of State announced that the UK will provide £5 million a year for the next five years to the World Alliance for Patient Safety.

The Patient Safety Summit concludes a programme of health-focussed events which have run throughout the six month UK Presidency of the EU. The event will be used to share solutions and drive forward progress by examining issues such as learning from other "high-risk" industries, improved reporting and learning from patient safety incidents and more clearly focussed education and research.

Keynote speakers presenting to the summit include patient champions and:

  • Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, England, Chief Medical Advisor, UK and Chairman, WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety
  • Dr LEE Jong-Wook (Director General of the WHO)
  • Mr Fernand Sauer (European Commission's Director of Public Health)
  • Minister Mars di Bartolomeo (Luxembourg)
  • Professor Dr J Herre Kingma (Inspector General of Health and CMO for the Netherlands)
  • Tanaiste Mary Harney (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health and Children in the Republic of Ireland).

Speaking at the event, Patricia Hewitt said:

" The vast majority of patients in European healthcare receive safe and effective care, but we have to recognise that in our modern, increasingly complex health services mistakes do happen. It is encouraging to see so many policy makers and experts joining together and sharing in the excellent work already done across the EU Member States, to help leave a lasting legacy of safer healthcare for all Europeans, and indeed for the rest of the world."

_ Member States and other countries, the European Commission and the World Health Organization are all taking action to encourage reporting and learning from patient safety incidents and improve education and research, but we know that much more work needs to be done.

_ We must all commit to build on this and drive forward a coherent package of work on patient safety, not just at the European level but across the world. To this end, the Department of Health in England will be providing core support and £5m a year to help the World Alliance for Patient Safety deliver this challenging agenda."

The Presidency's patient safety theme has continued the focus in this important area from the previous Luxembourg Presidency. The Presidency has built on other work (notably the 2005 Luxembourg Declaration and the emerging patient safety recommendations from the Council of Europe) to identify an EU approach to patient safety that can complement global initiatives in this area, notably the World Alliance for Patient Safety, led by the World Health Organization.

Active discussion at high level between EU Member States in 2005 has resulted in a prioritised proposed programme of action and effective, practical tools aimed at:

  • Supporting Member States in establishing and developing national level patient safety programmes and patient safety reporting and learning systems.
  • Bringing together design expertise from a range of industries and disciplines to embed the best thinking in "systems design" in patient safety.
  • Initiating research on key aspects of patient safety, not least on the economic impact of patient safety problems and the financial costs and benefits of implementing safety improvements - this is one key area where data and knowledge is currently insufficient.
  • Encouraging the development of a skills and knowledge framework for patient safety education, along with tools to support innovation and implementation.
  • Enabling the main players to align their work in this area and, wherever possible, to collaborate to ensure highest level of patient safety and quality of care at the European level.

The Presidency welcomes the decision of the Commission's High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care in 2004 to establish a sub-group with a programme of work on patient safety. In 2005 this group has developed solid proposals to build networks to support Member States as they develop national patient safety strategies; it is also proposing a number of projects to further patient safety activity throughout the EU, notably in examining how patient safety can be improved by better design and how research on patient safety can be effectively implemented.

The Presidency hopes that the analytical work and prioritised proposals put forward by this group will help to inform the work of the Commission and Member States in taking forward and supporting ongoing programmes of action in this area, from 2006 onwards.

As part of the work relevant to patient safety, the Presidency also welcomed the Agreement of the Consensus Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13-14 October 2005, on the Exchange of Information on Healthcare Professionals for Competent Authorities. This agreement has been developed by competent authorities across Europe and other stakeholders to ensure a common, coherent and effective approach to fulfil obligations resulting from the Directives on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, said:

" Patient safety is now recognised as a major global health challenge. During the UK Presidency of the EU we have been conscious of the opportunity to strengthen existing initiatives aimed at improving the safety of healthcare in Europe and to demonstrate our support for the international effort being spearheaded by WHO."

Dr LEE Jong-Wook, Director-General of WHO, said:

" The United Kingdom's contribution to the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety is key to helping the Alliance deliver its objectives and build global momentum to improve patient safety. This funding will help the Alliance to play a key role in supporting the development of research, delivery capabilities and knowledge to tackle the full range of patient safety issues around the world."

Fernand Sauer, Director for public health of the European Commission, said:

" European collaboration can provide ideas and tools to help EU Member States improve the safety of their patients. By working together as mentioned in the
" Luxembourg Declaration on Patient Safety", we can reduce harm to patients throughout the EU. This will also give patients confidence when they seek healthcare elsewhere in Europe

Source(s): The UK Department of Health

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