Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Patient Safety

Putting safety on the curriculum

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 15 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3725
  1. Oliver Ellis, Clegg scholar
  1. 1BMJ, London WC1H 9JR
  1. oellis{at}

    WHO wants patient safety to be included from the start of medical education, Oliver Ellis reports

    The idea that health care actually harms patients has been around for some time, but until now little has been done to educate future doctors about the problem. However, the World Health Organization hopes that this will change with the publication of its curriculum guide next year. The new curriculum, currently being piloted, will detail how medical schools should teach patient safety to undergraduate doctors.

    The publication builds on growing concerns that medical errors have high human and financial costs. Back in 2000, the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Quality of Health Care in America found that in the US alone up to 98 000 deaths a year could be attributed to medical error, costing between $17bn (£10bn; €12bn) and $29bn. It concluded that: “The status quo is simply not acceptable and cannot be tolerated any longer.”1

    Despite this, many medical students have found their training on safety to be wanting: a 2004 survey of American graduates reported that 45% considered their training on quality assurance “insufficient.”2 Since then, medical educators have made several calls for patient safety to be made a focus of undergraduate training. In …

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