Imperial’s Centre for Health Policy calls for action on patient safety


The stage for the Patient Safety Summit

Experts advocate for action to improve safety of care at the recent Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety.

On 23 and 24 February 2023, 80 official delegations, 28 ministers, and leaders and experts on patient safety attended the 5th Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety in Montreux, Switzerland.

Imperial College London’s patient safety experts joined the event which called for a focus on strategies which enable the uptake of evidence-based practices, known as implementation science, to improve the safety of care.

Their response to the discussions at the Summit, published in The Lancet as a Letters, draws attention to the opportunity to use learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic to enable health systems to move from plans to action for safer care.

Despite the tools and systems that exist in healthcare, errors in patient safety continue to cause devastating impacts for patients and carers. For example, serious maternity events as outlined in the ‘Ockenden Report’ highlight the need for immediate actions to address and learn lessons from repeated mistakes and errors.

We have been working collaboratively with other organisations to improve research capacity, leadership, and education and training for patient safety. Professor the Lord Ara Darzi Co-Director, Institute of Global Health Innovation

The pandemic showed us that health systems could respond rapidly to new ways of working. However, it also brought increased strain on the workforce and increased disinformation which eroded public trust. To provide safer healthcare for patients, we need a well and supported workforce and a public who trust in, and are engaged by, their care providers. Effective leadership will be critical to see through the cultural and organisational shifts required for this change, alongside commitment from political leaders to implement policy at the national level.

Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, Co-Director, Institute of Global Health Innovation, said: “As a leading research centre for patient safety we are committed to supporting the effective implementation of evidence-based practice. We have been working collaboratively with other organisations to improve research capacity, leadership, and education and training for patient safety”. 

Safer working conditions will not only directly support wellbeing and ensure the sustainability of our healthcare workforce but enable the adoption of best practice and improved systems that will bring safe care to all.

Dr Mike Durkin, Senior Advisor on Patient Safety Policy and Leadership at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London said: “The challenge to over 80 Ministers and Governments is to act quickly once more as COVID-19 taught us that this is possible when it becomes an imperative. That imperative to eradicate avoidable harm is ever present in the lives of millions of patients, their families and healthcare staff. The time for narrative is over; it is now the era of action and implementation of evidence-based practice to rebuild trust and reduce harm.” 

Alexandra Shaw, Policy Fellow in Global Patient Safety, Institute of Global Health Innovation, said: “It is also crucial to involve patient voices by engaging and empowering patients as well as staff to advocate for and implement the necessary changes to improve patient safety.” 

To achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of providing universal health coverage, it is essential that this care is safe and of good quality to improve health outcomes and prevent avoidable harm. Support to close the implementation gap is particularly needed in fragile and crisis settings where infrastructure development, partnerships and local capacity building are required.

Actions to address avoidable harm in health care, ‘The Montreux Charter on Patient Safety’ were endorsed at the Summit including positioning patient safety as a global public health priority, building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, deepening partnerships and collaborations globally, reinforcing a safety learning culture and engaging and empowering patients and families.

Patient safety has been a long-standing priority for the Institute of Global Health Innovation. The NWL Patient Safety Research Collaboration conducts research in the delivery of safe and quality healthcare, with a focus on the UK. In addition, the Centre for Health Policy conducts a programme of work in global patient safety.

To equip future leaders in global patient safety, the IGHI offers a 2-year Master’s in patient safety, informed by global experts.

NoteLetters published in the Correspondence section represent the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of The Lancet journals. Letters to the Editor are not normally externally peer reviewed.


Victoria Murphy

Victoria Murphy
Institute of Global Health Innovation