Safety and healthcare

Patients should be confident that the care they are receiving is safe. Central government stimulates care providers and care professionals to improve safety in the healthcare environment.

Patient safety

Mistakes by care professionals or shortcomings in the healthcare system can cause unintended physical and/or mental damage to patients.

Patient safety is a priority for the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. Care providers and care professionals are responsible for safe, patient-centred, good-quality care. Standards on this are laid down in law.

The government encourages care providers to take measures to improve patient safety. Take, for example, the agreement to continuously improve safety programmes. 

Safety in hospitals

Hospitals must be alert to patient safety at all times in order to minimise unintended and avoidable damage.

That's why they are carrying out a safety management programme (VMS) focused on 10 themes, like reducing the number of wound infections after an operation, and identifying and treating pain at an early stage.

The programme should reduce the number of:

  • hospital admissions caused by medication errors, and
  • avoidable incidents and deaths.

In addition, a team of experts has drafted safety standards for hospitals.

Safety in primary care

Primary care professionals like family doctors, dentists and physiotherapists also use safety management standards, treatment guidelines and protocols. These have been drawn up by the medical and professional associations themselves. You can find more information about this on the websites of these associations.

Safety in long-term care

Steps are being taken to improve safety in long-term care settings. They include:

  • introducing safety management systems in nursing and personal care, home care and care for people with disabilities
  • reducing the number of medication errors
  • reducing the use of restrictive measures
  • introducing safety measures in mental healthcare.

What patients can do for their own safety

Patients can also look out for their own safety, for example by reading the patient safety card that they get from their care provider. The card tells patients what to expect during their treatment, and what questions they can ask if anything unexpected happens. A care worker can also go through the information on the card with the patient.

Safe medical practice

The Healthcare Professions Act (BIG) protects patients from incompetent treatment and lack of due care by care professionals. Doctors and certain other care professionals must register themselves in the BIG register. Anyone can check the BIG register to see if their care professional is in it.

A safe workplace for care professionals

Care professionals have a right to a safe working environment if they are to provide good-quality care. But they are increasingly confronted with aggression and violence during their work. The action plan Safety at work in the healthcare sector (in Dutch) outlined measures to create a safer working environment in the healthcare sector. The action plan ran until the end of 2015.

The action plan included a campaign on aggression in the workplace. It also gave employers and employees advice on dealing with aggressive behaviour by patients and others.

Monitoring safety in the healthcare sector

In hospitals and care homes, management boards are responsible for the quality of care in their organisations. The supervisory board ensures that the management board does its job properly (good governance).

The Healthcare Inspectorate (IGZ) monitors the safety, quality and accessibility of healthcare in the Netherlands.