Intended for healthcare professionals


Italy recognises patient safety as a fundamental right

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 22 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2277
  1. Tommaso Bellandi, deputy director1,
  2. Riccardo Tartaglia, director1,
  3. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development, co-director2,
  4. Liam Donaldson, professor of public health3
  1. 1Centre for Clinical Risk Management and Patient Safety, Florence, Italy
  2. 2Centre of Medical Informatics, Usher Institute of Population Health and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. tommasobellandi{at}

A new law takes a bold step towards enhancing patient safety

On 8 March 2017 Italy enacted a new law on patient safety and health professionals’ responsibilities.1 It begins by recognising that “Patient safety is a fundamental right of each individual within any healthcare service and it is a primary goal of the national healthcare service.” This is a bold step, by a G8 country, towards the goal of reducing avoidable harm in healthcare.

National and regional patient safety programmes started in Italy around a decade ago. The first step towards the new law was an agreement between the national government and the regions in 2008, which required the establishment of a patient safety incident reporting system in each hospital; a local and regional clinical risk management function; and the creation of a national repository of safety practices. The second step, a year later, was the introduction of mandatory monitoring of sentinel events and claims, a key component of the legislation.

An assessment of the economic burden of unsafe care was another driver of the …

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