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World Patient Safety Day highlights importance of health literacy

A woman with grey hair and a red coat stands outside with some houses and trees in the background. 

“We know patients have a better experience if they are actively involved in their own care,” according to Kara Madden, Chair, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland. Kara was speaking ahead of World Patient Safety Day on Sunday, 17 September. 

“As chairperson of Patient for Patient Safety Ireland, I am delighted that our group has been involved in planning for World Patient Safety Day. Together with a team from the HSE and Department of Health, we are co-producing and designing materials to support elevating the voice of patients. My thanks to all involved in raising awareness of the active engagement of patients and families helping to improve patient safety at all levels.”

At the age of 44,Katie Verlingwas diagnosed with leukaemia and so began her experience of being a cancer patient. When speaking about this experience, Katie said that “the people on the team were open to questions and there was a willingness of the doctors to listen and explain any new symptoms. The nurses encouraged me to speak up and ask questions if I was concerned about anything.  There was a trust, a sense of being heard and of being involved in my care.”

On World Patient Safety Day the HSE is encouraging the public to always ask healthcare staff key questions at appointments. Everyone can struggle with healthcare information and instructions and the HSE is encouraging people to ask healthcare staff questions if they are unclear, to ensure they have all the information they need on their patient journey. 

In collaboration with Patients for Patient Safety Ireland (PfPSI) and the Department of Health, the HSE is focusing on the theme: “Elevate the patient voice and safety through health literacy.”

It is estimated that one in three people will have difficulty accessing and understanding health-related information. Everyone can play a more active role in their own healthcare experience. They can ask questions when at a medical appointment. These questions can include: “What do I need to know now: What do I need to do next: What can I expect: How will this help me.”

According to Bernard Gloster, HSE CEO, the “main message is if you’re not sure, please ask us. Most people we know have had an experience as a patient, or as an advocate for a child, a parent or sibling where they have struggled with healthcare information or instructions. This can impact everything, from medication safety to the outcomes of care."

“We want patients and their families to get involved in the design and delivery of services. Your input and experience is valued. Meaningful conversations matter - in all our engagements, whether it’s an appointment with your GP, a visit from the public health nurse or as a member of a working group.” 

Deirdre Madden, Chair of the Safety and Quality Committee of the HSE Board added that they “want patients to be active partners in their own care, engaged in co-designing services, policy development, and partners in the governance structures delivering services."

"Through my work with the HSE Board Safety and Quality Committee, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of the patient voice at the table. I hope that people will acknowledge the importance of the patient voice and recognise that what patients have to say, and what they would like to know, is important for a safe and quality-led service.”

Find an information pack with materials resources for World Patient Safety Day