While all would agree that no one should be harmed in healthcare, figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that:

  • 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in low and middle income countries;
  • 15% of hospital expenses can be attributed to treating patient safety failures in OECD countries; and
  • 4 out of 10 patients are harmed in the primary and ambulatory settings of which 80% could have been avoided.

At a time when globally many healthcare workers have been away from their families for long periods, and worked under intense conditions dealing with the worldwide pandemic, the focus of the second WHO World Patient Safety Day is quite rightly put on health worker safety. Many face risks on a daily basis from workplace associated infections such as COVID-19, psychological and emotional welfare challenges, and unfortunately on too many occasions, violence and abuse from those who they are caring for.

Research has indicated that such factors can lead to error producing conditions through poor communication and decision making. Therefore unless the welfare of staff in the healthcare setting is put at the forefront of patient safety true progress is difficult.

All health workers want to ensure that, not only is their own welfare addressed, but that they work in a culture that when mistakes are made they feel supported and there is learning from what happens when things go wrong (as well as when things go right). As the NHS Resolution report Being Fair states “A resilient organisation helps staff work safely every day”— a message which is more important now than ever before.