Safe health workers, safe patients

Matt Woodley

17/09/2020 4:03:48 PM

This year’s World Patient Safety Day highlights the challenges facing healthcare workers – and the impact this can have on patients.

Doctor putting on PPE
The WHO is encouraging people to ‘speak up for health worker safety’.

World Patient Safety Day, a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, began last year in an effort to create awareness of patient safety, and spur global solidarity and action to promote its importance.
The campaign has turned its focus to the impact healthcare worker safety can have on patient safety, particularly within the context of COVID-19.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the huge challenges and risks health workers are facing globally, including healthcare associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness and even death,’ the WHO’s campaign page states.
‘Furthermore, working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors, which can lead to patient harm.
‘Health systems can only function with health workers, and a knowledgeable, skilled and motivated health workforce is critical for the provision of safe care to patients.’
For this reason, the WHO is encouraging people to ‘speak up for health worker safety’ and is promoting the slogan ‘safe health workers, safe patients’.
The first nine months of 2020 has raised a number of safety issues for GPs and practice staff, particularly related to infection control and mental health in the wake of COVID-19.
Adjunct Professor Debora Picone, CEO of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission), marked World Patient Safety Day by stating the safe delivery of healthcare in Australia is her ‘highest priority’.
‘We need to protect our frontline staff to protect the safety of our patients,’ Adjunct Professor Picone said.
‘Effective infection prevention and control is critical, and the Commission will continue to provide the latest guidance, resources and expert advice to healthcare workers and consumers to reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection.
‘Safe healthcare will always be person-centred care, and we will continue to empower consumers to help improve their healthcare experiences and outcomes.’
Dr Louise Acland, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices (REC­­–SGP), previously told newsGP the college’s General Practice Patient Charter and the fifth edition of the Standards for general practices both have a patient-centred focus that aim to help foster a positive GP­–patient relationship.
‘[The goal is] to help improve patients’ experiences when they use general practices, and to help patients to become more involved in decisions around their healthcare,’ she said.
‘In this way patients will gain a better understanding of their rights when receiving general practice care and forming a partnership with their GP.

‘As GPs and practices implement the elements of the Charter and assist patients to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system, patients will feel better connected with their GP, and obtain better health outcomes.’
Consumer Health Forum of Australia (CHF) Chief Executive Leanne Wells also acknowledged World Patient Safety Day by encouraging patients to play a ‘central role’ in their own healthcare by being more engaged and informed.
‘World Patient Safety Day provides all Australians with an occasion to be thankful for those who ensure safety in healthcare,’ she said.
‘Australians can be thankful for a strong health system, but we can do more to improve patient safety.
‘The COVID experience is showing that everybody has a part to play in keeping us all safe. We need more recognition and support in the system to equip consumers with information to stay safe.’
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