• Jeremy Hunt repeats calls for world patient safety day 
  • Former health secretary attending World Health Assembly this week
  • Also announces £70m for Better Health Programme

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for further global action on patient safety, and revealed the UK will give £70m to improve standards overseas.

The former health secretary will make his case at the World Health Assembly – the World Health Organisation’s decision-making body, which meets annually – in Geneva this week. 

The UK and Kenya have co-sponsored a resolution on global action on patient safety at the World Health Assembly, which has gained the support of more than 30 countries. A decision on whether to adopt the resolution will be made later in the week.

“The next big moment is the motion this week which will create a world patient safety day to shine a spotlight on how to reduce the million deaths every year from medical error,” Mr Hunt said ahead of the event. “Today we call on our friends and partners across the world to support our motion at the World Health Assembly, get behind us, and make this change to help save so many lives.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, called on all countries to adopt the resolution and “put this issue at the top of the global health agenda”. 

Mr Hunt, who was a keen champion of patient safety during his time as health secretary, also called for a world patient safety day in a speech at a summit in Saudi Arabia in March

The foreign secretary has also announced £70m over three-and-a-half years for the Better Health Programme, which is aimed at improving the lives of up to 150 million people in eight developing countries – Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. 

Among the project’s aims are: improving clinical processes such as recording preventable deaths; using technology to provide services to women and those in rural or hard-to-reach areas; raising care quality in up to 4,000 hospitals; and providing education and training to health workers. It was developed in consultation with the Departments of Health and Social Care, International Development and Trade, and with the assistance of UK government health organisations.

According to a statement from the Foreign Office, patient harm in healthcare is one of the top 10 causes of death and disability worldwide, while as many as one in four patients are harmed unnecessarily while receiving healthcare in low-and-middle-income countries.