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Around 400 Patient safety researchers and policy-makers from approximately 60 countries convened in Porto 24-26 September 2007 to explore existing patient safety research activity and develop conclusions for further actions.

Around 400 Patient safety researchers and policy-makers from approximately 60 countries convened in Porto last month to explore existing patient safety research activity and develop conclusions for further actions. This conference “Patient Safety Research - shaping the European agenda" was made possible by the Commission of the European Communities' Scientific Support to Policies activity under the 6th EC Framework Programme for Research, supported by the Portuguese Ministry of Health and organized by the UK Faculty of Public Health, University College London and the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety. On an international level a huge amount of work is being done to research and develop these policies for implementation by healthcare authorities. At a European Community (EC) level both the European Commission and Council of Europe have been actively working with national ministries of health, European associations of healthcare professionals and academic bodies to achieve these goals. Globally, the World Health Organization has recognised patient safety research as a priority within the programme of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety. The development of effective patient safety policies within all Member States is a key objective of the European Union (EU) public health policy agenda and EU institutions are working towards developing mechanisms to facilitate and support all Member States to develop sustainable policies. Working through the European Commission’s (EC) Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General, the High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care's patient safety working group comprises of senior officials from Health Ministries of Member States and a number of pan-European organisations representing key stakeholders such as health professionals, hospitals and patients, working to provide strategic advice to the Commission and as a forum for the exchange of information and expertise. The working group is in the process of developing an umbrella mechanism at the EU level. A patient safety recommendation, which identifies the areas for action on patient safety at Member State and EU levels, is currently being considered by Member States through the High Level Group, and many members of the working group will be partners in a DG SANCO-funded project to set up and manage a single European network to support all Member States in establishing policies and systems on patient safety, subject to confirmation of Community funding through the Public Health Programme. The Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General has also prioritised patient safety for its work programme in 2008, with a Commission proposal likely in the second half of 2008. On the research side the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) under the third pillar of the Health Theme entitled "Optimising the delivery of health care to European citizens" includes opportunities for funding patient safety research. FP7 is an EC research funding programme that awards grants to successful research proposals over the period 2007-13 with a budget of over €6 billion for the health theme. The most recent called that closed in September included topics on: implementation of research into healthcare practice; self-medication and patient safety, and a patient safety research network. Conference delegates agreed that patient safety research must involve a wide range of stakeholders, and promote contributions from patients. Both basic and applied research are needed to support policy and practice, and as part of broader health service research activities. EU Members States should consider patient safety as a priority area for action and this would require effective research programmes and countries should work together to share expertise and best practice and form networks where appropriate. It was felt that a strong research basis is needed to ensure high quality healthcare. As health care becomes ever more complex, and health systems are changing, all countries need to address how to protect patients from adverse healthcare events that contribute to the global burden of disease. The conclusions and recommendations from the conference included funding for patient safety research at European Union and Member State levels; promoting a joined-up system of local, national and international patient safety research supported by all stakeholders in Europe and ensure it is linked to evidence-based policies and practice; promoting multidisciplinary research and the integration of disciplines relating to patient safety research; developing the effective use of IT for data collection and systems which promote safety and reduce adverse events; establishing a pan-European electronic collection of patient safety research findings, readily accessible for both researchers and policy-makers; agreeing a minimum data collection criteria for patient safety across Europe, based on the WHO International Classification for Patient Safety; providing healthcare professionals with a new culture on patient safety issues, more training and advice based on clinical evidence; Developing an early warning system within Europe to identify a whole range of healthcare associated infection risks and fostering networks and joint research across the European Union, neighbouring regions and developing and transitional countries. Links: Conference web page Patient Safety Research - shaping the European agenda 7th Framework Programme for Research, Health Research- Patient Safety, Public Health Portal of the European Union - WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety -