World Patient Safety Day – Don’t be short of something to say?

Juanita Guidera

By Juanita Guidera, Programme Manager – Staff Engagement for Quality, National Quality and Patient Safety Directorate, HSE

  • People joked that she was never short of something to say. In her day job, she led a team of people. By night she was on the local parents’ council and she coached the under-10s Gaelic football team. For the first time, not only were her words gone but she was finding it hard to focus. Who knew all it took was a blue gown…
  • He could see it on their faces, they were all under pressure. It probably wasn’t that important anyway. Maybe he’d be able to ask the nurse on the way out…  
  • She’d spent 20 minutes on hold with another department – it was the third time she was late back to work after her tea break trying to find out who she needed to talk to about her mother’s care…

Our personal health literacy is the degree to which we have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and take action for ourselves and others. As healthcare managers, it goes a step further to organisational health literacy which is how we equitably enable individuals to do this.

This year, in response to the World Health Organisation, international World Patient Safety Day which falls on Sunday, September 17, the HSE, in collaboration with Patients for Patient Safety Ireland and the Department of Health, is focusing on the theme:  “Elevate the patient voice and safety through health literacy.”

Why is health literacy important?

It seems like a minor thing, however, it’s estimated that health literacy is a challenge for over 40% of the population in Ireland. It’s important because health literacy is an enabler for patient safety. The overriding goal of this year’s World Patient Safety Day “Engaging patients for patient safety,” is to increase healthcare commitment to safety, and promote global action to improve patient safety and reduce patient harm.

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 to grapple with healthcare information or instructions. It can impact everything from medication safety to patient outcomes. 

How can you elevate the voice of patients?

The World Health Organisation is calling on us to ensure that patients are active partners in their own care, are engaged in co-designing safety strategies, are involved in policy formulation, and are represented in governance structures.

The HSE, working in collaboration with members of PfPSI and the Department of Health has prepared an information pack, new resources and a series of learning events that can be accessed in any healthcare setting and used to mark WPSD.

Patient Safety leaflet cover

How can I get involved?

Included in the pack is “Your health, Your voice” leaflet which provides prompts and tips for people on playing a more active role in their own healthcare experience, based on asking:

  1. What do I need to know now?
  2. What do I need to do next?
  3. What can I expect?  How will this help me?

As a healthcare manager, you can:

  • Take the lead and invite people to ask the three questions above or encourage your staff to prompt them.
  • Remind colleagues that while we often assume that because of someone’s background, health literacy is not a challenge – this is not the case.  It can be a challenge for everyone depending on their circumstances or experiences on a given day.
  • Remember, you can make a difference by asking ‘What would you like to know today?’

Where to find further information

An information pack with materials, messages and new resources for WPSD are available from the HSE website at or by scanning the QR code below.  If you are hosting an event tag @NationalQPS on twitter so that we can share your message.


Thank you to the Project Team, chaired by Kara Madden, Chair, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland and Joe Ryan, National Director, Operational Performance and Integration, who are working with representation from across the HSE, Patient Partners and the Department of Health, National Patient Safety Office co-designing and co-ordinating the response to WPSD in Ireland.  This work is being facilitated by the National Quality and Patient Safety Directorate.

Who are Patients for Patient Safety Ireland?

Patients for Patient Safety (PfPS) is also a WHO initiative aimed at improving patient safety in health care.  The Irish PfPSI group’s objective is to encourage health care providers to acknowledge patients and their families as an untapped resource for information and recognise the patient experience as a learning tool. You can find out more on their website.