Photograph of a doctor in scrubs holding a stethoscope sitting on a hospital bed holding a patient's hand.

World Patient Safety Day

By John Tingle

The first “World Patient Safety Day” took place on September 17, 2019. It is an annual event and one of  the World Health Organization’s (WHO) officially mandated global public health days. The aim is to create awareness of patient safety and to urge people to show their commitment to making health care safer. The publicity generated by the event has worked to focus global attention on patient safety issues and is a call for action in the area.

World Patient Safety Day

Many health care organizations and governments across the world participated in the day and shared via social and national media their patient safety activities. Some governments lit up national buildings in the campaigns color, orange, to celebrate the day and to show commitment and solidarity to the need for safer care. WHO stated:

A few examples of monuments which will be lit up are the Jet deal in Geneva, headquarters of WHO, the Giza pyramids outside Cairo, Egypt, The Kuala Lumpur Tower in Malaysia and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston, USA, in recognition of the first World Patient Safety Day.

The messages of World Patient Safety day contained stark and troubling statistics. The WHO press release on the day stated that globally at least five patients die every minute because of unsafe care. Four out of every ten patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory health care.

The Global State of Healthcare Report

On World Patient Safety Day an important report was launched at Imperial College London on the global state of patient safety.The report conceptualizes well global patient safety problems and provides a road map for taking matters forward. There are discussions of the global burden of unsafe care and countries’ progress toward patient safety.

In the report it is stated that patient safety is now an established cornerstone of health care quality. The patient safety discipline has evolved and attracted global political attention. The clinical burden of unsafe care is discussed and several statistics are given on the extent of unsafe care, globally. Unsafe care is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the world and up to 83% of harm is avoidable. In the U.S. it is estimated that every adult will experience a diagnostic error at least once during their lifetime. It is stated in the report that the risk of harm “is far more pervasive than many may assume.”

The need for global cooperation in developing solutions is stressed in the report and that there are common universal trends:

Although the burden of safety varies from country to country, there are clear trends that exist on a global level. The result is that, while specific interventions will require cultural and contextual adaptation, the general recommendations for improvement are universal.


It is evident from social, national, and global media stories that the first World Patient Safety Day was a success. It resulted in many health care organizations, governments reflecting about patient safety issues and thinking positively about how to mark the day. The call to arms from WHO was met and a seminal report on global patient safety was also published in London.


John Tingle

John Tingle

John Tingle is a regular contributor to the Bill of Health blog. I am a Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK; and a Visiting Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago, School of Law. I was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School in November 2018 and formerly Associate Professor at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University in the UK. I have a fortnightly magazine column in the British Journal of Nursing where I focus on patient safety and the legal aspects of nursing and medicine. I have published over 500 articles and a number of leading texts in patient safety and nursing law. My current research interests are in global patient safety, policy and practice, particularly in African health care systems. My most recent publication is: "Global Patient-Safety Law Policy and Practice," edited by John Tingle, Clayton O'Neill, and Morgan Shimwell, Routledge 2018.

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