Press release

World Patient Safety Day highlights importance of health literacy

Published: 15 September 2023

Updated: 31 January 2024

  • HSE wants you to ask questions at healthcare appointments
  • “Elevate the patient voice and safety through health literacy”

On World Patient Safety Day (Sunday, 17th September 2023), the HSE is encouraging the public to always ask healthcare staff key questions at appointments. Whether you are at the GP, at an outpatient appointment, in hospital as an inpatient or at the Emergency Department, or with the public health nurse, for example – always ask if you’re not clear about your care.

We can all struggle with healthcare information and instructions and the HSE is encouraging people to ask healthcare staff questions if they are unclear to ensure they have all the information they need on their patient journey. The HSE, in collaboration with Patients for Patient Safety Ireland (PfPSI) and the Department of Health, is focusing on the theme: “Elevate the patient voice and safety through health literacy” for World Patient Safety Day.

Why is health literacy important this World Patient Safety Day?

It’s estimated that one in three of us will have difficulty accessing and understanding health-related information. Every one of us can play a more active role in our own healthcare experience, by asking these questions when we are at a medical appointment:

  1. What do I need to know now?
  2. What do I need to do next?
  3. What can I expect? 
  4. How will this help me?

If you are using health services, please ask these or any other questions you might have. 

Bernard Gloster, HSE CEO, said: 

“Our key message to you is: if you’re not sure, please ask us. Most people we know have had an experience as a patient, or as an advocate for a child, a parent or sibling where they have struggled with healthcare information or instructions. This can impact everything from medication safety to the outcomes of care.  

We want patients and their families to get involved in the design and delivery of services. Your input and experience is valued.  Meaningful conversations matter - in all our engagements, whether it’s an appointment with your GP, a visit from the public health nurse or as a member of a working group.” 

At age of 44, Katie Verling, was diagnosed with leukaemia so began her experience of being a cancer patient. When speaking about this experience, Katie said:

“The people on the team were open to questions and there was a willingness of the doctors to listen and explain any new symptoms. The nurses encouraged me to speak up and ask questions if I was concerned about anything. There was a trust, a sense of being heard and of being involved in my care.”

Kara Madden, Chair, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland, commented: 

“As chairperson of Patient for Patient Safety Ireland, I am delighted that our group has been involved in planning for World Patient Safety Day 2023. Together with a team from the HSE and Department of Health we are co-producing and designing materials to support elevating the voice of patients.

My thanks to all involved in raising awareness of the active engagement of patients and families helping to improve patient safety at all levels. We know patients have a better experience if they are actively involved in their own care. This work is aligned to the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030.”

Deirdre Madden, Chair of the Safety and Quality Committee of the HSE Board said: 

“We want patients to be active partners in their own care, engaged in co-designing services, policy development, and partners in the governance structures delivering services. Through my work with the HSE Board Safety and Quality Committee, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of the patient voice at the table. I hope that people will acknowledge the importance of the patient voice and recognise that what patients have to say and what they would like to know is important for a quality and safe service.”

An information pack with materials, messages and new resources for World Patient Safety Day are available from the HSE website at

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