Quality of care and patient safety are not only top of the Belgian healthcare policy agenda but are also major priorities for healthcare providers and hospitals across Belgium. As a result, enhancing patient safety via the introduction of innovative ideas and best practices is one of our main objectives.
This section features any information you may need about patient safety in Belgian hospitals.
• A multi-annual programme on quality and safety
Introducing enduring changes to improve the quality of care and patient safety calls for long-term planning. In 2007, the FPS Public Health launched a first multi-annual programme which covered the 2007-2012 period.
The present multi-annual programme came into effect in 2013 and will run until 2017. This plan encourages hospitals to introduce improvement measures in four areas: 'high risk' medication, safe surgery, identity vigilance, Restriction of freedom and transmural care*. Hospitals wishing to feature in this plan will have to attain a number of concrete objectives by 2017. In return, they will receive financial support to implement these measures and for training purposes.
• Colleges of Physicians
1999 saw the establishment of the Colleges of Physicians with a view to enhancing the quality of their respective specialties within the hospital sector. These Colleges also formulate recommendations with regard to the prescription of therapies. Belgium numbers 12 Colleges of Physicians:
- Cardiac pathology
- Specialised emergency care
- Intensive care
- Chronic renal failure
- Mother and newborn
- Medical imaging and nuclear medicine
- Reproductive medicine
- Human genetics
• The proper use of antibiotics
An excessive and incorrect use of antibiotics causes bacteria to become resistant. When that happens, the body's immune system becomes unable to effectively ward off bacterial infections or disease. The Belgian Antibiotic Policy Coordination Committee (BAPCOC) was established in 1999 to tackle the improper use of antibiotics. It among other matters launches a national antibiotics campaign every year. At that, BAPCOC also publishes an antibiotics guide for general practitioners (which can be applied for by email).
• Hand hygiene
Sound hand hygiene practices reduce the number of hospital infections. In that light, the FPS Public Health organises a nationwide "You are in safe hands" campaign every other year. This campaign is run in every healthcare facility across Belgium.
Breastfeeding has a beneficial effect on the quality of life of both the newborn and its mother. The decision to breastfeed and the length of time babies are breastfed will depend on the expertise of the individual healthcare providers and on the quality of the support parents, pregnant women and mothers receive.
The Federal Breastfeeding Committee has been supporting hospitals that promote breastfeeding in their maternity departments since 1995. Every Belgian hospital that meets the international “Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative” (BFHI) - an international project launched by the WHO and UNICEF - criteria is awarded the BFHI label. So far, 23 Belgian hospitals have been presented with this label.
• Theatre checklist
On average, there are 1 to 2 incidents in Belgian hospitals a year where a patient leaves theatre with a foreign object in his body. To combat this issue, the FPS Public Health recommends that a checklist be used when patients undergo surgery. By doing so, the FPS Public Health is acting on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to theatre safety: “Safe Surgery Saves Lives”.
“Do we have the correct patient?" or "Are you absolutely sure that all needles and compresses have been removed?" are just some of the questions that feature on this checklist.
• Medical imaging
“A medical image is not a family snapshot. Use this technology sparingly”. With this slogan, the FPS Public Health launched its 2012 nationwide campaign to raise awareness amongst healthcare providers and the public at large about the proper use of medical imaging so as to avoid patients being exposed to radiation unnecessarily. This website deals with any questions you may have about medical imaging and also features a number of useful tips and recommendations on this particular topic.
Physicians prescribing medical imaging now also have access to the publication Belgian guidelines on the proper use of medical imaging. Furthermore, the final touches are currently being put on a quality assurance system for radiology departments which is based on the international recommendations the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued.
The Belgian Medical Imaging Platform (BELMIP), which seats the FPS Public Health, the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (RIZIV), the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control(FANC) and representatives of the sector, has been tasked with the coordination of all these initiatives.
• Pharmaceutical care
Since 2007, the FPS Public Health has been funding and supporting pilot projects on the application of clinical pharmacy in Belgian hospitals. Pharmaceutical care is one of the pillars of health care provided to patients, and is included in the various stages of his healthcare circuit. Through a multidisciplinary approach, its goal is to meet the needs relating to drug therapy of the patients through prevention, identification and solving of problems linked to the use of medicines.
The goal of pharmaceutical care is to achieve positive results in terms of health, through the responsible use of drug therapy. Care providers ensure that the patients' therapy is appropriate, as safe and as secured as possible, while being efficient and focusing on the patient's preferences.
The Support Committee of Haemovigilance was launched in October 2O11. The mission of this Committee was to support Belgian hospitals for the function of haemovigilance. Later on, improving the consumption of blood components in Belgium was added to this mission. The National Platform for Transfusion Policy (NPTP) was set up through the extension of the Support Committee of Haemovigilance.
In 2014, the National Platform for Transfusion was renamed "BeQuinT", which stands for Belgian Quality in Transfusion. With a view to making the federal platform more widely known, the steering group chose a new name for it and had a new logo prepared.
Monitoring and evaluation
Wallonia has not developed a specific qualitative approach, although it is competent to draw up complementary quality standards. Its inspection work is therefore currently concerned only with the evaluation of organisational indicators (e.g. staffing standards) and some process indicators (e.g. the inspectors check whether compulsory records are being properly kept).
Alongside inspections in the context of the approval procedures, however, it has developed a themed inspection model (e.g. hospital dispensaries, emergency healthcare services), which provides a relatively precise snapshot of the state of a given area of a hospital at any one time.
Wallonia has recently gained a platform bringing together all healthcare actors (authorities, federations, insurance organisations, schools of public health), with the following five objectives:
- discuss the development of standards;
- produce indicators;
- plan and monitor the implementation of accreditation processes;
- structure inspection/approval and accreditation;
- share practices, in particular concerning processes.
Common Community Commission (Brussels):
The COCOM supervises the quality in the Brussels hospitals which are under its care by continually testing the defined standards to the reality in the hospitals.
* See Glossary