No Patient Safety without Patient Involvement – EPF Conference


On 8 and 9 November, patients and healthcare professionals’ representatives from all over Europe got together in Brussels to discuss challenges of patient safety. The debate focused on how patient and family involvement can improve this really critical issue for patients in Europe.

The EPF Conference on ‘Patient and family empowerment for better patient safety’ gathered more than 60 participants from different backgrounds that discussed gaps and opportunities in the field of patient safety.

The morning sessions gave the opportunity to delve into the concept of patient empowerment and its great potential to improve safety. “Patients – being the primary users of healthcare services – are able to identify inconsistencies and failures of the healthcare system and should therefore be involved in its assessment and design,” said Robert Johnstone, EPF Board member, in his keynote speech. If they are appropriately engaged and empowered, patients could contribute to a sustainable change into a patient-centred care that would not only be safer but also more effective. That said, the current context proves that health literacy, capacity for engagement, and the demands of the current health system remain important challenges to patient empowerment in patient safety.

In the afternoon, the conference featured three parallel workshops which aimed to address key aspects of patient and family empowerment in patient safety. Divided into groups and guided by a facilitator, participants discussed patient empowerment in acute settings, patient-professional communication as a critical safety factor, and patient and family involvement in aftermath of incidents.

On the second day, the rapporteurs of each group presented the key outcomes and recommendations of the exchanges. Amongst others, introducing new tools to measure quality of care, embedding patient-professional communication in the structure of all healthcare professionals’ training, and teaching staff on how to empathise with and meaningfully involve patients and families were highlighted as potential solutions. 

The last session of the conference saw representatives of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analyse the future of patient safety and the actions needed to improve it at EU and national level. “Patient safety should remain an ongoing priority at EU and national levels, and it should therefore continue being part of the EU health programme. Additional measures are needed, especially supporting actions to protect patient safety and to foster exchange of best practise in the field,” said Dr Bernard Maillet, CPME Vice-President. Dr Niek Klazinga, from the OECD, presented the organisation’s work on collecting cross-country information on indicators for patient-reported outcomes, patient experience and safety incidents.

In short, the conference was useful to identify key issues and opportunities from the patients’ perspective. Patients, while showing their willingness to actively engage and be empowered, demand a culture change and recognition that they and their families are equal and valued partners in care. 

The conference will contribute to the future policy and advocacy work of EPF on this topic. “After the conference, we will produce a comprehensive report with conclusions and recommendations for EU and national policymakers. This will form also the basis for our continued work in the next year, and for the development of a set of ‘core competencies’ for patients and families aiming to involve them in the area of patient safety – a key provision of the 2009 Council recommendation,” said Kaisa Immonen, EPF Director of Policy.

You can access the speakers’ presentations here, and see the pictures of the conference on EPF Facebook page.

To know more about our work on patient safety, click here.