Patient safety

Patient safety is considered “… a framework of organised activities that creates cultures, processes, procedures, behaviours, technologies and environments in health care that consistently and sustainably lower risks, reduce the occurrence of avoidable harm, make error less likely and reduce its impact when it does occur”. (Reference: World Health Organization. (2021). Patient safety: About us. (external site).)

Whilst all health care contains a degree of risk, patient safety is concerned with reducing this to an acceptable minimum. Patient safety processes within health services help to identify areas where opportunities for improvement in the delivery of health care may exist to prevent avoidable harm.

Much of patient safety best practice and process adopts a systems thinking approach. A systems approach recognises that human error will always arise in modern complex health settings, but that rather than taking an individual ‘name, blame and shame’ approach, it is through emphasis on the system and its defences in place that patient safety events can be prevented from occurring.

A strong patient safety reporting culture in organisations may translate into an increase in patient safety events reported but with decreased patient harm. These events, called near miss or low harm events are opportunities for continuous learning and quality improvements that support the WA health system in its commitment to providing safe, high-quality, person-centred care.

Patient safety systems, including clinical incident, consumer feedback, and mortality review processes, form part of the clinical governance structures in the WA health system. An emphasis on learning and quality improvement is achieved through the development, implementation, and evaluation of recommendations made following the investigation of patient safety events.

Patient safety culture

Patient safety culture is a component of broader safety culture. See the Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care ACSQHC explanation (external site) of patient safety culture.

World Patient Safety Day

The World Health Organization has declared the 17th September each year as World Patient Safety Day (external site). This global campaign aims to create awareness of patient safety and urge people to show their commitment to making healthcare safer. A different theme is chosen each year to highlight a different area of patient safety.


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More information

Further information is available from the Patient Safety Surveillance Unit (WA Health staff only). This site contains clinical information and for this reason is only available to WA Health staff. Please contact for specific enquiries.

Last reviewed: 08-04-2022
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Patient Safety Surveillance Unit