To mark #WorldPatientSafetyDay, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a rallying call reminding governments to manage the safety and health risks faced by healthcare workers so they, in turn, can keep their patients safe.
This year’s theme is ‘Health worker safety: a priority for patient safety' and the WHO has published a safety charter calling for five actions to better protect health workers and their patients, which IOSH is backing.
'The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,' said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. 'No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe. WHO’s Health Worker Safety Charter is a step towards ensuring that health workers have the safe working conditions, the training, the pay and the respect they deserve.'
No country, hospital or clinic can keep patients safe unless it keeps #healthworkers safe.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) September 17, 2020
Today, @WHO launched a health worker safety charter to ensure they have safe working conditions, training, pay & the respect they deserve.https://t.co/3Fks43r4JN #WorldPatientSafetyDay
As well as the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, healthcare workers face many other risks in their work, including the threat of violence and stress, which can make them more prone to errors which could harm patients.
Key actions from the safety charter include:
- Establish synergies between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies.
- Develop and implement national programmes for better occupational health and safety of health workers.
- Protect health workers from violence in the workplace.
- Improve mental health and psychological well-being of the health workforce.
- Protect health workers from physical and biological hazards.
'People working in healthcare are responsible for patient safety. But they cannot guarantee patient safety if they aren’t safe and healthy themselves,' warned Dr Andrew Sharman, IOSH president.
'Those who work in healthcare face risk on a daily basis. This has only been enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time they have continued to provide a vital service for us despite these risks, which include but are not limited to transmission of the virus, fatigue caused by the long hours worked and psychological and emotional distress.'
Many of IOSH’s members work in healthcare and play a key role in implementing good safety and health management systems. Some of these members are part of its Health and Social Care Group, which brings together professionals in this sector to discuss challenges and seek solutions.
Dr Sharman is encouraging all OSH professionals – not just those working in healthcare – to get behind the initiative.
'As the campaign slogan says, safe healthcare workers mean safe patients,' he added. 'So, let’s get behind this campaign, promote the importance of protecting healthcare workers and make a difference to not just their lives but those of the patients they look after.'