Internationally, 17 September, is recognised as World Patient Safety Day (WPSD), one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) global public health days. The 2023 theme, is       “Elevate the voice of patients!”, prioritises the need for patient centred healthcare, in which patients are empowered to play an active role in their healthcare journey and in the co-development of policies, plans, strategies, programmes and guidelines to make healthcare safer.

In September, three prominent institutions within the South African medical landscape – The Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA), the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and South African Medical Association (SAMA) – , joined forces to observe WPSD 2023 and unpack how their organisations are contributing to a safer healthcare environment.

IPASA has over the past decade represented pharmaceutical companies dedicated to the development and manufacturing of innovative, quality medicines for the South African market. Its work involves brokering partnerships and relationships; ensuring that pharmaceuticals adhere to good manufacturing practices; educating about the safe and effective use of medications; and ultimately advocating for South Africans to gain greater access to life-saving innovative medicines and breakthrough treatments.

“As an institution standing at the forefront of pharmaceutical excellence, we are proud to play a part in safeguarding the wellbeing of patients in South Africa,” explained Bada Pharasi, CEO of IPASA.  

Vigilant oversight is essential for maintaining the integrity of the healthcare system and protecting patient safety. SAHPRA is tasked with safeguarding public health by regulating and monitoring medicines, medical devices, and healthcare products. SAHPRA has developed user-friendly systems such as the MedSafetyApp for patients to report adverse events and safety concerns related to medications and medical devices.

Healthcare providers on the frontlines of patient care carry an enormous responsibility and are vital to the safer healthcare cause. SAMA as a professional body provides ongoing education and training to physicians, upskilling them on the importance of patient-centred care. Part of the association’s mandate is to set and hold its members accountable to high standards of professionalism, ethics and competence.  

A fundamental principle and shared responsibility

In 2019, when the WHO’s World Health Assembly resolved to establish a ‘global action on patient safety’, the organisation recognised that patient safety is a fundamental principle of healthcare, and a public challenge requiring an intricate approach, clear policies, organisational leadership, skilled healthcare professionals, the effective involvement of patients, and more to be addressed. 

The health agency’s data and research list unsafe healthcare among the 10 leading causes of death and disability worldwide. The recommendations that accompany these findings, conclude that with a concerted effort and sufficient investment into the cause, a 50% decrease in preventable patient harm could be achieved. 

Patient safety is a shared responsibility by the entire healthcare ecosystem. This holistic perspective is needed to identify risks, prevent errors, and promote a culture of safety and transparency. 

“WPSD 2023 allows for an important moment of reflection for the entire healthcare value chain. Greater education, empowerment and collaboration are the tools that can help reconfigure our healthcare systems to become safer and more responsive to patient needs and concerns. Potentially ushering in a new era in South African healthcare where patient safety is paramount, and patient voices are elevated and valued in every aspect of healthcare,” concludes Pharasi.