Patient Safety

World Patient Safety Day, marked annually on 17 September, aims to increase public awareness and get global action on promoting patient safety. A new patient safety theme is selected each year.  This year’s theme is Safe Maternal and Newborn Care

Doctor Peter McKenna, Clinical Director with the National Women and Infants Health Programme, speaking about how patient safety is the cornerstone of the HSE's National Maternity Strategy

Professor Richard Greene, Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, speaking about how the National Maternity Strategy is improving maternity care for women

Angela Dunne, National Lead Midwife for the National Women and Infants Health Programme, speaking about how the HSE's National Maternity Strategy outlines that women should have access to safe, quality, consistent, and patient-centred care

Doctor Orla Healy, National Clinical Director for Quality and Patient Safety, marks World Patient Safety Day on 17 September 2021

patient safety logo 2021

Patient safety is a priority for our health care system. Our vision for patient safety is that all patients receive the safest possible care.

This means

  • making patients partners in their care,
  • promoting an open and transparent patient safety culture, and
  • learning from near misses and mistakes

No patient expects to be harmed in health care. We all expect and hope that our treatment and our family’s treatment or care will be successful and safe. Yet we know that in health facilities all over the world, patients do suffer harm and it is sometimes avoidable. We must do all we can to minimise risks to help avoid patient safety problems

We are making progress in lots of areas. We have implemented many patient safety initiatives in recent years resulting in measurable improvements. Many of these have been in response to serious patient safety incidents.

Some of these initiatives include

Patient Safety Strategy 2019 to 2024

In Ireland, as many as 1 in 8 patients suffer harm while using healthcare services. Maintaining the highest levels of safety is a fundamental priority for Board of the HSE. 

The first Board-led HSE Patient Safety Strategy was launched in December 2019. Since then, the Patient Safety Programme have been engaging with services and staff throughout the HSE to put in place the objectives and the commitments of the Strategy.

Initial work includes:

  • Engagement with Patients and Patient Representatives
  • Initial communication and engagement with Community Healthcare and Hospital Group Management Teams and QPS Staff
  • Commencement of a project to develop a Patient Safety Knowledge and Skills Guide
  • Commencement of a project to develop strategies and processes for patient safety surveillance
  • Collaboration with leads for each of the thirteen Patient Safety Priority Areas to develop a cohesive approach to improving patient safety and to the funding of patient safety improvements
  • Progression of the recruitment of 26 QPS Staff as per the Service Plan 2020
  • Inclusion of the Patient Safety Strategy in to the forthcoming Corporate Plan

Some of the actions in the Patient Safety Strategy are:

  • To develop a patient safety culture throughout the organisation that is fair and open
  • Implement and enhance governance structures that improve accountability at every level of the organisation with patient safety as the core focus
  • Establish a National Patient Safety Programme within the office of the Chief Clinical Officer
  • Improve systems and processes that listen to, engage with and involve patients in their own care, and in the design, delivery, evaluation and improvement of health care services.
  • Involve staff in the identification and improvement of patient safety issues including reporting of incidents, learning from the causes of incidents, and learning from examples of good practice and successful initiatives 
  • Improve the capacity and capability of the organisation for patient safety, including supports, resources, education and training, and patient safety surveillance systems and methodologies
  • Publishing the strategy is another important step toward reducing incidents of patient harm in our health service. The next step in this process is looking at how the strategy will be implemented across the organisation

Read a summary of the Patient Safety Strategy

Read the full Patient Safety Strategy 2019 – 2024 

Implementing the strategy

The newly established Patient Safety Programme will identify and build on excellent patient safety improvement work already being undertaken throughout the HSE and has already commenced work on implementation such as developing a high level implementation plan and a communications plan in addition to engaging with various stakeholders throughout the service. 

Next steps to roll out the implementation of the strategy:

  • Establish governance structures to support the Patient Safety Programme and the implementation of the Strategy
  • Plan out the approach that will be taken for implementation
  • Develop a communication and engagement strategy to align with implementation
  • Involve patient and staff in the implementation planning  
  • Begin a service mapping and gap analysis 
  • Identify strategies, supports and resources need to enhance capacity and capability   
  • Develop a long term Patient Safety Strategy Implementation Plan 
  • Advance patient safety improvements within prioritised patient safety areas

Examples of Patient Safety Improvement Initiatives

Across the Irish healthcare system there is strong commitment to improving the safety and quality of care. The National Clinical Programmes are central to improvements to the safety and quality of healthcare delivery. Co-designed and sustainable patient safety and quality improvement initiatives are being implemented across the organisation including:

  • A project to promote shared learning following patient safety incidents
  • The development of Patient safety Stories
  • Let’s Discuss Programmes
  • Publication of Complaint Casebooks
  • The Pressure Ulcer to Zero and Falls Collaboratives
  • Deteriorating patient e.g. QI Learning sets in a number of acute settings
  • Medications safety e.g. further roll of Know Check Ask Campaign to encourage people to keep a list of medicines
  • QI for Health Care Boards 

Support for services

A Strategy for Change

To support and monitor the implementation of the Strategy, a Patient Safety Programme and Team have been established. Patient Representatives will be involved at all stages of the Programme. Patient safety improvement actions will be contained in our National Service Plan and service level Operational Plans. The Patient Safety Programme Team will provide leadership, oversight, co-ordination and monitoring of the implementation of the Strategy.

More information

Contact the Patient Safety Programme

Quality and Patient Safety Directorate
Office of the Chief Clinical Officer
Health Service Executive
Dr. Steeven’s Hospital
Dublin 8


Twitter @NationalQPS

How we can play our part to improve patient safety?

  • Engage patients as partners in their care      
  • Involve patients in the design, planning and delivery of our health service
  • Communicate clearly with patients about their care
  • Speak up if you see something unsafe
  • Introduce yourself to patients and their family
  • Mind your personal health and wellbeing and look out for colleagues who need support
  • Improve the culture of your workplace by practising the 9 behaviours of Values in Action
  • Clean your hands properly when caring for patients to reduce risk of infection
  • Recognise, highlight and build on existing good patient safety practice in your workplace
  • Improve the quality and timeliness of incident reviews and learn from patient safety incidents
  • Know about the commons harm that happen in your clinical workplace
  • If you lead a team, create a  secure environment  for people to discuss their concerns
  • Keep good patient records and notes
  • Talk to patients about any changes to their medicines or care and encourage them to keep an up-to-date list of the medications they are taking

Related topics

HSE Patient Safety Strategy 2019-2024

HSE Patient Safety Strategy Summary 2019-2024

Involving patients in the design, planning and delivery of health care

Communicating clearly with patients

Healthcare communication programme

HSE Open disclosure policy

Say #HelloMyNameis

Staff health and wellbeing

Values in Action

RESIST hand hygiene programme

From Safety I to Safety II   

Quality Improvement Division

Healthcare Records Management, Safe Patient Care Code of practice for healthcare records management

Know, Check, Ask