Patient Solidarity Day 2019

A blog by Helen Hughes, Chief Executive

  • 6th December 2019
Helen blog image

Friday 6 December 2019 marks the seventh annual Patient Solidarity Day, where people and organisations across the world rally around one of the key issues facing patients and help to raise awareness of this. The theme this year is ‘Acceleration for Safe Patient-Centred Universal Health Coverage’ with a call to hold leaders accountable for the commitments they have made to ensure safe and patient-centred universal health coverage for all.

Patient engagement is essential for a patient-safe future

We know that patient safety is a major and persistent problem, with a recent report this year stating that unsafe care is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the world.[1] Over the past 20 years, a common factor in many patient safety scandals has been the disregard of the voice of the patient. Not only can this failure to listen lead to frustration and potentially provoke unneeded litigation, but by treating patients as passive participants in their care it also ignores the value they can add in the process of investigations, learning and making improvements.

We set out in our recent report, A Blueprint For Action, that patient engagement is one of the six foundations of safe care. We envision a patient-safe future as one where patients are actively engaged throughout the care process and whenever things go wrong. However, much needs to be done to ensure patients and their families are consistently engaged if we are to do this, and achieve the Patient Solidarity Day call for safe patient-centred universal health coverage for all.

So what is needed? To fully engage patients in patient safety we need to have health and social care systems that both welcome and recognise the value of patient engagement and involvement. In practice this means:

  • Organisations informing patients and the public about patient safety performance against published patient safety goals, standards and metrics.
  • The development of governance and operational roles for patient engagement.
  • Patients become an integral part of an organisation’s governance and leadership for patient safety.
  • The provision of consistent support to patients, families and staff when there is unsafe care.

Developing a 'harmed care pathway'

At Patient Safety Learning we are currently working with Joanne Hughes, founder of Mother’s Instinct, to take action to help patients engage for patient safety. Joanne set up Mother’s Instinct following the death of her daughter Jasmine in 2011, due to failures in her care. Her ambition is for this to provide a source of support specifically for families whose children die following medical error and a platform to share their stories and experiences.

Working collaboratively we are looking at the processes that kick in when unsafe care occurs and the journey that patients, families and staff subsequently go on. As part of this we will be considering whether developing a ‘harmed care pathway’, setting out a best practice approach to this, is a means to improve patient safety and increase engagement and participation in the post-incident care process.

We recognise there is much to be gained from listening to patients and families. Have you had an experience that you’d like to share with us? Maybe you identified a risk or shared a concern and were listened to and unsafe care was avoided? Maybe you weren't listened to or you didn't realise what was going on and you or your family member were harmed?

Please do get in touch with us at [email protected] or join the conversation on the hub, our online platform for patient safety, where we currently have a conversation about personal experiences of patient safety you can join and read some of our patient stories in the Learn section.

[1]Flott, K, Fontana, G, Darzi, A, The Global State of Patient Safety; 2019.


A platform for anyone with an interest in patient safety to share and learn from one another. Learn more.

Sign up to our newsletter