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17 September 2020 marks the second annual World Patient Safety Day. Who would have thought, a year on from the inaugural World Patient Safety Day, that patient safety would have been such a persistent theme, in 2020?

What is World Patient Safety Day?

World Patient Safety day was created by the World Health Organisation. Endorsed by all 194 member states, with the aims of:

  • Increasing public awareness and engagement
  • Enhancing global understanding
  • Encouraging global solidarity and action to promote patient safety

In 2019, countries around the world celebrated, by lighting iconic places and monuments orange.

World Patient Safety Day in 2020

In 2020, patient safety has been at the forefront of global attention; COVID-19 has emphasised our reliance on an effective healthcare system. And as a result, Governments across the globe have taken extreme measures to protect their citizens, to avoid overburdening their healthcare systems.

In response, the populous have expressed increased levels of gratitude for the sacrifice and servitude our healthcare workers give to protect us on a daily basis.

Because of what we have been through in 2020, the symbolic lighting of places and monuments will represent “a very visible public recognition of health workers’ efforts globally to provide safe healthcare every single day for their patients” according to the World Health Organisation.

Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety

The official theme for World Patient Safety Day in 2020 is: ‘Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety’.

The official message is: “safe health workers, safe patients” and they are encouraging people to “speak up for health worker safety!”

The Royal College of Nursing Challenge

The Royal College of Nursing has taken the opportunity to challenge the Government. They have asked them to address the nursing shortage, which they say is putting patients’ and staffs’ lives at risk.

The nursing shortage isn’t new. Some will remember it playing a cameo role, in an election dominated by Brexit. And if there ever was any doubt about the shortage, the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted some serious under resourcing issues.

It’s not hard to understand how a shortage of nurses puts patients’ lives at risk; without nurses, people do not get treatment. But there’s far more to it than a cursory analysis like this would allow you to see. Only last year, it was suggested that two nurses lost their lives because of the stresses of their job. This tragic story is obviously the worse case scenario; so how many more are struggling the with immense pressure of their day-to-day job? And how can they be providing the optimal care to their patients?

The Royal College of Nursing are therefore calling for:

  • Proper investment in the training of new nurses
  • Fees to be abolished for nursing students
  • A universal living maintenance grant for nursing students that actually reflects their needs
  • An immediate pay rise for nursing staff across the UK

Heroes not Superheroes

In a year where healthcare workers have been our saviours, it’s critical that we remember, they are only human. Obviously, incredible, brave and selfless humans; but nevertheless, human.

We must not let the superhuman feats they perform on a daily basis cause us to forget this. Furthermore, we owe it to them to help fight for their rights; in the same way that they’d fight for us, if we find ourselves under their care.

And as World Patient Safety Day highlights, this isn’t quite as altruistic as it might seem. By protecting our healthcare workers, they can more effectively protect us.

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