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Patient safety
Patient safety: global momentum builds
  1. Sir Liam Donaldson
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Sir L J Donaldson
 Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS, UK; philippwho.int

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The International Alliance for Patient Safety to be established by the World Health Organization indicates its commitment to a global patient safety policy

In November 2003 an international meeting of major importance took place in London on the theme of patient safety. Policy makers, clinical leaders, and experts from many countries around the world came together to consider the next steps in making resolution WHA 55.18 passed by the World Health Assembly in May 20021 an operational reality.

The original resolution urged countries to pay the greatest possible attention to patient safety and requested the Director-General of the World Health Organization to carry out actions including: the development of global norms and standards; the promotion of evidence-based policies and mechanisms to recognise excellence in patient safety internationally; the encouragement of research on the subject; and giving assistance to countries in several key areas.

Since the resolution was passed, the World Health Organization has established work programmes tackling systemic issues such as taxonomy, estimating hazards, and the development of reporting and learning systems. The World Health Organization has also brought together its technical experts in areas such as blood safety, injection safety, vaccine safety, drugs and medicines, making pregnancy safer, and medical devices so that their individual expertise can be harnessed to tackle global patient safety issues.

One of the most significant proposals to emerge from the November 2003 London summit was the establishment of an International Alliance for Patient Safety.

The International Alliance for Patient Safety will be of fundamental importance in facilitating the development of patient safety policy and practice in all member states of the World Health Organization. This will be achieved through the delivery of a number of core functions and short term initiatives as set by the Alliance in an annual work programme. At present a number of working groups have been established to consider possible core functions. The working groups consist of international experts and policy makers from all World Health Organization regions. They are addressing issues such as policy development and monitoring; research; solution development; reporting and learning systems; a specific programme to be designed for developing countries; professional issues; and consumer involvement. Membership of the International Alliance for Patient Safety will be open to all countries, interested bodies, and international experts. Its creation recognises that no single body has the expertise, funding, or research and delivery capabilities to tackle the full range of patient safety issues on a worldwide scale. It will provide a mechanism that can reduce duplication of investment and increase those activities that benefit from economies of scale. The International Alliance for Patient Safety will provide an environment in which major new initiatives can take place that individual partners might not be able or willing to take on alone. It can become a vehicle for the sharing of knowledge and resources to improve effectiveness.

Over the last decade the whole concept of patient safety has been much more widely understood and researched.2 The capacity of healthcare systems to change and redesign their systems and ways of working to reduce risks for the patients they serve is a formidable challenge. Harnessing the commitment, expertise, and talent in the field of patient safety across the world provides the opportunity to make that challenge a global one. The involvement and commitment of the World Health Organization signals that the time is now right for the global patient safety movement to get to work and start saving lives.

The International Alliance for Patient Safety to be established by the World Health Organization indicates its commitment to a global patient safety policy

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