Patient safety

Safer Primary Care

Universal coverage has become a priority goal for the World Health Organization (WHO) and its Member States, and providing accessible and safe primary care is essential towards meeting that goal. However, very little is known about the possible risks that patients frequently face in primary and ambulatory care, especially in low to middle income countries. Also, research has shown that a significant proportion of safety incidents captured in hospitals had originated in the earlier levels of care. As a result, the WHO Patient Safety Programme has initiated the "Safer Primary Care" project whose goal is to advance the understanding and knowledge about:

  • the risks to patients in primary care,
  • the magnitude and nature of the preventable harm due to unsafe practices in these settings,
  • and safe mechanisms to protect primary care patients.

In February 2012, the Patient Safety Programme convened a consultation of some of the world's top experts in primary care, research, and patient safety to form the inaugural Safer Primary Care Expert Working Group. The experts, from 18 Member States and the six world regions, together with senior members of WHO gathered in Geneva for two days. Together they discussed and debated the available evidence on the burden of harm resulting from errors and the global limited understanding of how to intervene to improve the safety of care in primary care settings.

The major outcomes of the meeting were:

  • Recognition of the importance of unsafe primary care.
  • Willingness to work as a network around a common agenda, and share instruments, tools, data and learning.
  • Support aimed at integrating baseline measurement with quality improvement in low- and middle-income settings.
  • Identification of priority areas and key knowledge gaps.
  • Recognition of the need for increased knowledge together with practical proposals to bridge major knowledge gaps.
  • Suggestions for a roadmap for action.

The report of the inaugural Expert Working Group meeting is now available. The report provides a summary of the evidence considered and generated, a synopsis of the discussions, and provides details of essential next steps to ensure the collective work continues to improve the quality and safety of primary care provision.

Safer Primary Care Expert Working Group