Patient safety

Passion for change

Evidence has repeatedly shown that when patients are involved in their own care, the outcomes of this care are better than if they had not been involved. This concept is at the heart of the Patients for Patient Safety programme, and continuously fuels our actions. Yet it is the partnership between patients, health professionals and policy-makers that can effect the most positive change.

In March 2011, a group of patients, family members and advocates from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, joined health-care workers and policy-makers, in a workshop in Entebbe, where participants urged Member States and health-care providers to make patient safety a priority in Africa. This unique gathering organized by the WHO Regional Office for Africa, gave participants the opportunity to share their experiences of harm in health care and passion for change, to commit to working together to improve health-care safety in their countries.

This workshop was the first of its kind in Africa. Its participants have now joined the existing network of Patients for Patient Safety (PFPS) Champions around the world. This network of patients, providers, policy- makers and others, advocate for patients and family members to be empowered and placed at the centre of care. PFPS believes sustainable improvements in safety will only be made if organizations engage patients, family members and civil society, to learn from medical error and to work in partnership to develop solutions in efforts to improve health-care safety.

PFPS Champion and advocate, Mrs Robinah Kaitiritimba called on the group to work together and take action: “We have been waiting for this workshop. Now that we have a network we are going to move. We emerge from our time together with a shared passion to listen, learn and progressively improve patient safety in our countries."

In 2008, the WHO African Regional Committee highlighted the problem of patient safety and endorsed a number of recommendations to facilitate improvement. One was to promote "partnerships between patients, family members, health professionals and policy makers to effect meaningful change in patient safety." The Committee also stressed that the involvement of patients in raising awareness and campaigning for the development and implementation of health-care safety measures, would be crucial if systems are to improve.

Patients and patient advocates worked hand in hand with policy-makers and health-care workers to capture the spirit of the workshop by drafting a Declaration which calls for patient safety to be made a priority in Africa and for patients to be empowered as meaningful partners. Participants also developed action plans to improve the reporting of medical errors, to prevent harm due to infection, to raise awareness and ensure the patient voice is heard and to strengthen partnerships between patients and providers.

Since the workshop, the new network has been active. Patient champions in Ghana have collaborated with their Ministry of Health partner to hold a workshop on maternal / newborn health to discuss strategies to raise awareness and to engage mothers, fathers and others to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. They also launched the Patients for Patient Safety Ghana Chapter. Others are working with their Ministry partners to provide input to policy documents, to develop patient safety guidelines and to explore opportunities to hold future workshops in their countries to share the learning and to expand and strengthen this patient-led movement in Africa. The Entebbe Declaration will be finalized in the coming months.