Patient Safety in Healthcare

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Introduction and background

Patient safety has always been the heart of healthcare practice and nursing through the history of medicine. However, all through the world occasional non-deliberate accidental harm occurs to patients looking for care. Such unfavourable incidents can occur at all levels of healthcare whether clinical or managerial, curative or preventive, and in general healthcare, or private.

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It may occur at any stage of management (radiology, laboratory, operating room, ward, or ICU). The WHO, at the meeting held on July 2006, in New Delhi, India, identified an adverse event as a separate unconnected incident associated with health care, which results in in-deliberate injury, illness, or death. Such incidents can be preventable as with contaminated injections. Published surveys on patient safety show that in industrialized advanced countries, more than half of these adverse events are preventable and occur because of a shortage in system or organization design or operation rather than because of poor performance of healthcare providing staff (WHO report, 2006). Harvard Medical Centre study in 1991 (after WHO report, 2006) was the first to draw the attention to the volume of patient safety problem. Based on medical records review, the rate of adverse event in three US medical centres ranged between 3.2 to 5.4 percent. In UK, the rate was 11.7 percent and in Denmark, the rate was 9 percent (WHO report, 2002). Results of recent studies suggest the rate is between 3.2 and 16.6 percent (per 100 hospital admissions). The situation in the less well-documented health care centres in the developing countries is more serious (WHO report, 2006). The cost of adverse events that endanger patient safety can be very high, considering all the aspects. It includes, loss of confidence and credibility and reputation of health care institutions, loss of enthusiasm and job gratification among the working staff. In addition, the cost includes damage to the patients and their relatives especially when taking defensive attitudes and keeping information hidden from patient’s families. Other added costs are those of prolonged hospital stay and increased medical expenses and those of lawsuit demands (WHO report, 2006).


The objective of this paper is to review, in brief, the problem of patient safety with particular attention to patient safety in the ICU being one of the essential patient care systems in a health care organization. Besides, the vulnerability of ICU patients augments the importance of patient safety concept.


This thesis is a literature review study. The researcher performed an article search using the following internet databases:

  1. National Centre for Biotechnology – National Library of Medicine – National Institutes for Health (NCBI), at
  2. Medscape database, at
  3. Amedeo: The Medical Literature Guide, at
  4. British Medical Journals,

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