African Partnerships for Patient Safety

We hear a lot about patient safety here in the United States, but did you know patient safety is also a priority in Africa? The World Health Organization’s African Partnerships for Patient Safety (APPS) has prioritized patient safety by pairing African hospitals with hospitals in England, France, and Switzerland. Currently 14 African countries are a part of the APPS program. These pairings allow frontline health workers to exchange ideas and experiences to improve patient safety on both continents. Dr. Shams Syed (@Shams_Syed), the program manager over the African Partnerships for Patient Safety was recently interviewed on United Nations Radio about the partnership, its goals, and purpose.

“In the African region we recognize, although data is sparse, patient safety is a huge issue,” said Syed during the interview. “When patients come into African hospitals they face challenges in patient safety that lead to harm.” When asked about the types of challenges these patients experience he referenced patients picking up infections in hospitals and patients experiencing surgery complications that arise from medical error. While these are global patient safety problems APPS places a particular emphasis on enabling hospitals in developing African countries to learn from European countries and vice versa. In fact, Syed emphasized that the learning is not unilateral, but multidirectional.

One of the hospitals Syed mentioned is Kisiizi Hospital in rural Uganda that is currently partnered with Chester Hospital in England. Due to the effectiveness of the APPS partnership Kisiizi Hospital now has its own infection control professional and the health workers in England learned new ways of problem solving and communication.

“Sharing and learning flows in both directions,” says Sarah Hoyle, program lead at Chester in a World Health Organization feature about APPS. “We have learned a lot from working with our colleagues in Africa. In particular, this has focused competencies in team work, communication skills as well as problem solving.

While there are several instances where the African Partnerships for Patient Safety works well Syed does admit there are some challenges, especially when hospitals – senior leadership and frontline workers both – are not fully on board with the program. He did emphasize that once all of a hospital’s workers get on board, the outcomes and sustainability of the program increases.

“One of the things that we recognized is that sustainability will only occur if it is owned by the hospitals,” Syed said. “When senior leadership has been heavily involved and fully committed to the partnership that has allowed sustainability to be inbuilt within the initial activities”.

The African Partnerships for Patient Safety continually updates its tools, education, and training as more information and experience-sharing happens in the field. You can listen to Dr. Syed’s full interview on United Nations Radio and also visit the APPS web site at

Photo: Mom Bloggers for Social Good / Jennifer James

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