WHO launches the Patient Safety Rights Charter

Patient Safety Rights Charter

WHO launches the Patient Safety Rights Charter

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just launched the Patient Safety Rights Charter, a significant document unveiled during the 6th Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety in Chile on April 18, 2024. This landmark resource supports the implementation of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030, aiming to eliminate avoidable harm in healthcare settings worldwide. Developed as part of the commemorations for World Patient Safety Day 2023 under the theme "Engaging patients for patient safety" (adopted in response to a proposal elevated by the WONCA Working Party in Quality & Safetyand the slogan “Elevate the voice of patients!”, the Charter represents a significant stride toward integrating patient safety into global health agendas.

The development of the Charter involved a broad array of stakeholders, including patient advocates, safety experts, human rights specialists, healthcare workers, policymakers, and healthcare leaders. This collaborative approach ensured that the Charter's provisions are both comprehensive and applicable across diverse health systems. Based on extensive reviews of existing patient rights charters and legal instruments worldwide, the document reflects a global consensus on the need for heightened patient safety measures.

The Charter articulates ten fundamental patient safety rights, which serve as a blueprint for countries to enhance healthcare practices and promote the rights of patients within the context of safety. These rights address various aspects of healthcare, from the right to timely, effective, and appropriate care, to the right to be heard and to fair resolution. Each right underscores the importance of creating a safe, respectful, and dignified healthcare environment for every patient. 

Key Patient Safety Rights

  • Right to Timely and Appropriate Care: Patients are entitled to receive care that is not only timely but also effective and specifically tailored to their health needs. This is crucial in preventing disease progression and clinical deterioration, which are often the results of delays in care.
  • Right to Safe Health Care Processes: This right ensures that all healthcare processes and practices are safe, and that health workers adhere to established safety protocols to prevent and manage risks effectively.
  • Right to Qualified Health Workers: Every patient deserves care from providers who are not only qualified but also competent and compassionate, reflecting the highest standards of medical integrity and empathy.
  • Right to Safe Medical Products: This right guarantees access to safe, effective, and quality-assured medical products and technologies, essential for quality health care.
  • Right to Safe Healthcare Facilities: Patients must receive care in facilities that are secure, well-maintained, and resilient, especially critical in emergencies or disasters.
  • Right to Dignity and Respect: This encompasses treatment without discrimination, respecting the patient's dignity, autonomy, and preferences throughout their healthcare journey.
  • Right to Privacy and Confidentiality: Patients have the right to expect that their personal and medical information will be protected, ensuring their privacy and confidentiality at all times.
  • Right to Information and Education: Ensuring that patients are well-informed about their health conditions and treatment options empowers them to participate actively in their own care.
  • Right to Access to Medical Records: Patients should be able to access their medical records freely and securely, which is fundamental for facilitating informed decision-making.
  • Right to Patient and Family Engagement: This right emphasizes the role of patients and their families as active partners in the healthcare process, promoting a collaborative approach to health and safety.

For family doctors, the Charter provides a useful framework for practice. It highlights the necessity of engaging with patients not just as recipients of care, but as active participants whose insights and experiences can drive improvements in safety and quality. The rights enshrined in the Charter encourage a more inclusive and respectful healthcare environment where patient input and feedback are integral to the care process. More about this can be found at the Working Party in Quality & Safety.

The Charter aligns with this year's World Health Day theme, 'My Health, My Right.', by positioning patient safety at the core of universal health coverage and healthcare rights. It calls on healthcare providers and policymakers to adopt its principles to ensure that patient safety is not an optional add-on but a fundamental aspect of healthcare delivery.

In practical terms, family doctors can implement the Charter by ensuring that their practices uphold these rights daily. This can involve simple actions like improving communication with patients, ensuring privacy and confidentiality in consultations, and actively involving patients in decision-making about their treatment plans. It also means advocating for policies and practices in healthcare settings that support these rights, thus driving systemic change.

The Charter is not just a set of guidelines but a call to action. It urges healthcare professionals, especially family doctors, to champion the rights of patients to safe and respectful care. By embracing and promoting these rights, family doctors can play a critical role in minimizing preventable harm and enhancing the overall patient experience.

This year, as we reflect on the theme 'My Health, My Right.', the Patient Safety Rights Charter offers an exceptional opportunity to champion safe healthcare as a basic human right. It urges healthcare providers, policymakers, and patients themselves to advocate for and adopt its principles actively. As family doctors, embracing this Charter means not only advancing our practice but also fostering a safer, more transparent, and patient-centered healthcare environment for all.

Jose M Valderas
Chairman, WONCA Working Party in Quality & Safety