Making patient-centred healthcare a reality for patients worldwide

1 Apr 2008

'Patients should be seen as a catalyst for change and a compass, giving direction to our efforts to reduce unsafe care' said Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England and Chair of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety.

London, United Kingdom, 26 February 2008 - The 3rd Global Patients Congress of the International Alliance of Patients‘ Organisations (IAPO) highlighted the progress being made worldwide to address the role of the patient as an essential partner in the design and delivery of healthcare.

The Congress, held in Budapest, Hungary from 20-22 February 2008, brought together over 180 delegates from around the world, representing patients and other stakeholders in health such as the European Commission, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and global health professionals' associations, with the aim of learning from each other's experiences in developing patient-centred healthcare. Key note addresses demonstrated the central role that patients are increasingly playing in healthcare today.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, England and Chair of the WHO World Alliance for Patients Safety, Ms Katalin Rapi, Secretary of State for Health Policy at the Ministry of Health, Hungary and Mr. Andrzej Ry , Director, Public Health & Risk Assessment at the European Commission, DG SANCO, all highlighted the importance of developing collaboration between patients and all other healthcare stakeholders.

The Congress' key theme of patient-centred healthcare was complemented by a focus on Access to Healthcare, Patient Safety, Patient Information and Patient Involvement.  Through workshops and plenary sessions, speakers demonstrated the progress that has been made in these areas since the previous Congress in 2006. More and more patients are working with healthcare providers to make patient-centred healthcare a reality, and patient groups increasingly achieve recognition for the contribution they make to the design and delivery of healthcare.


Dr Linda Milan shared with us the progress of the People at the Centre of Health Care project of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO). This project draws on the IAPO Declaration on Patient-Centred Healthcare to support its work to —better respond to the needs of all healthcare stake holders and constituencies in a holistic manner“.

In his keynote address Sir Liam Donaldson highlighted the growing recognition given to patients as experts or teachers, helping to ensure that consumers receive the care they need in an appropriate and safe way.  Sir Liam said that in the event of medical error we must always see the opportunity to forgive the error, —but we should not forgive an unwillingness to learn from it“. He went on to say that the patient should be seen as our conscience for safe care, a catalyst for change,  a witness of the quality of care, a compass, giving direction to our efforts and as teachers in how we learn from unsafe care. The work of the WHO Patients for Patients Safety programme, led by Susan Sheridan for the WHO World Alliance for Patients Safety, exemplifies this approach through its Patient Champions. These Champions play a key role in improving patient safety both on a personal level in interactions with the healthcare system, but also by working in partnership with healthcare professionals, policy-makers and other stakeholders involved in healthcare.

Patient-centred healthcare and the valuable role of patients‘ organizations was also the focus of the closing keynote address, given by Ms Katalin Rapi, Secretary of State for Health Policy at the Ministry of Health in Hungary. Ms Rapi described the Hungarian government‘s efforts to provide meaningful support to civil society and patients‘ organizations as a key part of its aim to modernize healthcare delivery in the country. Participating throughout the Congress, Ms Rapi described how much she had learnt from the different contributions and debates, and stressed that the Hungarian Ministry of Health shared the mission of IAPO in recognising that —patient-centred healthcare can only be realised by all players working together.“

IAPO calls on all stakeholders in healthcare to include patients in a meaningful and sustainable way in all levels of their work and at all points of decision-making, and to build on existing models of involvement in collaboration with patients around the world: “To meet patients’ needs, decisions that affect a patients‘ healthcare, should not be taken without the full involvement of the patient at all levels of care, whether that be in the choosing of treatment options, developing healthcare policy or designing healthcare systems.“ said Myrl Weinberg, IAPO Chair and President of the National Health Council (USA).