September 17, 2019

Minimizing Patient Harm this World Patient Safety Day

September 17th marks the inaugural World Patient Safety Day, an important day set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve the safety of health care worldwide.  To mark World Patient Safety Day, WHO have put together some alarming statistics* about patient safety across the world:

  1. One in every 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care 

Reboux Estimates show that in high-income countries, as many as one in 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care. 

  1. The occurrence of adverse events due to unsafe care is likely one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability across the world 

Recent evidence suggests that 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually.

  1. Four out of every 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient health care

Globally, as many as four out of 10 patients are harmed while receiving health care in these settings, with up to 80% of the harm considered to have been preventable. The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines.

  1. Investment in patient safety can lead to significant financial savings

Investment in improving patient safety can lead to significant financial savings and more importantly better patient outcomes. This is because the cost of prevention is typically much lower than the cost of treatment due to harm. 

  1. Unsafe medication practices and medication errors harm millions of patients and costs billions of US dollars every year

Unsafe medication practices and errors – such as incorrect dosages or infusions, unclear instructions, use of abbreviations and inappropriate prescriptions – are a leading cause of avoidable harm in health care around the world. 

  1. Inaccurate or delayed diagnosis is one of the most common causes of patient harm and affects millions of patients

Diagnostic error, that is the failure to identify the nature of an illness in an accurate and timely manner, occurs in about 5% of adults in the United States outpatient care settings. About half of these errors have the potential to cause severe harm. 

  1. Hospital infections affect up to 10 out of every 100 hospitalized patients

Out of every 100 hospitalized patients, at any given time, seven in high-income countries and 10 in low- and middle-income countries will acquire one or more healthcare-associated infections.

  1. More than 1 million patients die annually from complications due to surgery 

Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients. Almost 7 million surgical patients suffer significant complications annually, 1 million of whom die during or immediately following surgery.


The World Patient Safety Day campaign aims to improve patient safety and minimize harm in medical facilities across the world. You can help minimize harm in your own home by returning any expired or unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy, reducing the risk of accidental ingestions by children or pets.  

For the full campaign details, visit the World Patient Safety Day campaign page:

The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project is a free service that offers a way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines safely and conveniently at your local community pharmacy. Find out more about the service here.


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