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Unit Head (Patient Safety Flagship)


  • Organization: WHO - World Health Organization
  • Location: Geneva
  • Grade: Senior level - P-5, International Professional - Internationally recruited position
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Public Health and Health Service
    • Security and Safety
    • Managerial positions
  • Closing Date: 2024-04-24


The Patient Safety Flagship (PSF) operates within the Integrated Health Services (IHS) department, situated in the Division of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course (UHL). The IHS department focuses on the delivery and experience of healthcare, emphasizing the interaction between individuals receiving care and healthcare providers. The core mission of the UHL is to ensure healthcare access for all throughout life, recognizing the impact of healthcare organization on access and health outcomes. The overarching goal is to provide trusted and quality healthcare that is safe, effective, respectful, compassionate, timely, and efficient. To achieve its objective, IHS offers strategic and normative guidance along with operational tools. These resources support countries in optimizing the design, delivery, and measurement of health services. Acting as an "integrator," IHS amplifies the impact of the World Health Organization's (WHO) normative guidance, aligning it with the complex reality at the point of care and addressing comprehensive needs. IHS adopts a holistic approach to health and healthcare, recognizing the uniqueness of each person and situation, emphasizing the importance of values, preferences, beliefs, and the context in which healthcare is accessed. Global recognition of unsafe care as a significant public health concern has spurred international advocacy efforts, particularly through the annual Global Ministerial Summits on Patient Safety since 2016. This momentum led to the formal recognition of patient safety as a global health priority by the 72nd World Health Assembly in May2019. This recognition included the adoption of WHA72.6 resolution 'Global action on patient safety,' the establishment of World Patient Safety Day on September 17, and the development of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan (GPSAP) 2021-2030. The key priorities of the PSF unit encompass global patient safety leadership, implementation and monitoring of relevant resolutions and action plans, development of reports, design and implementation of challenges, formulation of policies and strategies, observance of World Patient Safety Day, leadership and capacity-building, collaborative networks, knowledge-sharing platforms, technical resources and tools, patient engagement, metrics and assessments, and research priorities, including digital and innovative approaches.


Generic duties

  • Provides technical leadership, coordination and managerial support within the Department: Integrated Health Services (IHS), in the Unit of Patient Safety Flagship (PSF) ensuring that activities in this area are carried out efficiently and effectively.
  • Develops and proposes technical health policies, strategies, guidelines and technical support for implementation and establish new approaches and capacity building initiatives for patient safety implementation through collaboration with Regional and Country Offices and provides advice in developing further the patient safety technical area for strengthening and improving technical capacity within Member States.
  • Oversees a unit of technical teams specialized in various domains within their area of expertise and facilitates the efficient flow of team synergies.
  • Manages the programme area in delivering its objectives through efficient managing a small team of technical staff, financial resources and effective work planning to optimize the programme's deliverables in line with the mandate of the Organization.
  • Set research priorities, and leads and conducts research on best practices in implementing programmes and activities and dissemination of information for capacity building in the respective area of work.
  • Manages the monitoring and evaluation and reporting of the subject area of work of key performance indicators and reporting requirements and mechanisms to optimize performance of Programme deliverables.
  • Serves as the technical reference among the peer community, UN Agencies and other stakeholders at the technical levels in the respective area of expertise.
  • Liaises with and utilizes partnerships in other UN Agencies, Donor, or research institutions in the patient safety technical area to position the technical area of work and implementation into Global and/or National policies, including through WHO Global Patient Safety Network and Global Knowledge Sharing Platform.
  • Represent the programme area of work at various internal and external meetings in global forums and capacity building activities to advocate for patient safety.
  • Perform all other related duties as assigned.

Specific duties

  • Facilitate global advocacy through commemoration and campaigns for World Patient Safety Day annually on 17 September and set global priorities in patient safety and design and implement the Global Patient Safety Challenges and engage and empower patients and families through the Patients for Patient Safety Network, building capacities of patient safety advocates, as well as engaging with patient organizations.
  • Build patient safety leadership competencies and human resource capacity through patient safety education and training, accelerate country support and capacity building through Global Patient Safety Collaborative and provide strategic support to establish and implement medication safety and patient safety incident and reporting and learning, and surveillance systems.
  • In collaboration with the Health Services Assessment unit, lead, coordinate and manage the monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030 and report back on progress in its implementation to WHA every two years until 2031.
  • Work with other Units in IHS and other departments in WHO to develop, test and implement tools, guidance and approaches to support safety improvement efforts at regional and country level.



: An advanced level university degree in the field of patient safety, public health, medicine, health systems. health sciences, health policy and management, services management, as related to the functions of the position.

: Additional post-graduate qualifications - MD, MPH, or PhD in public health, patient safety or relevant health-related subject in one of the above-mentioned fields.



  • A minimum of 10 years of professional experience in the management of programmes/initiatives on patient safety, medication safety or public health, health care service systems improvement, including experience in the area of health policies and strategies.
  • Experience in leading cross-organizational areas of work and in convening and engaging with partner networks in patient safety.
  • Experience in providing senior level advice and guidance to Senior Management/Decision makers, managing human and financial resources.
  • Extensive experience related to country health systems and development of global guidance and publications inpatient safety.
  • Demonstrated experience managing human and financial resources.
  • Demonstrated experience at the international level.


  • Demonstrated experience working at both front line and policy levels on issues of health services, significant experience in patient safety and improvement efforts, including knowledge of project/programme development and management.
  • Practical experience working in low and middle-income countries.
  • Experience in supporting the development of national patient safety policies, strategies and action plans.
  • Demonstrated experience in resource mobilization.
  • Experience in working with NGOs.


  • Concrete skills in the planning and coordination of multidisciplinary public health programmes, which may include the implementation of a public health/disease control programmes.
  • Strong skills in the area of developing and establishing polices and strategies.
  • Excellent skills and ability in managing diverse teams and financial resources.
  • Excellent skills in mobilizing resources.
  • Ability to engage and communicate effectively and diplomatically with external partners including Ministries of Health, Donor institutions, Civil Society, and other stakeholders.
  • Commitment to collaborate effectively with other key partners in the Health Subject area.
  • Ability to engage, build consensus and communicate effectively and diplomatically with Member States, partners and media.
  • Commitment to collaborate effectively with other key partners in the Patient Safety.
  • Proven ability to lead organization wide teams and to effectively engage with high-level stakeholders from governments, academic institutes and partner agencies.
  • Proven track record ineffective communication, ability to conceptualize, analyses, and draft policy text.
  • Specific experience in the areas of patient safety, improvement and implementation, patient safety assessments at health systems and facility assessments.

WHO Competencies

  • Teamwork
  • Respecting and promoting individual and cultural differences
  • Communication
  • Ensuring the effective use of resources
  • Creating an empowering and motivating environment

Use of Language Skills


  • Expert knowledge of English.


  • Intermediate knowledge of French.
  • Intermediate knowledge of other WHO language.


WHO salaries for staff in the Professional category are calculated in US dollars. The remuneration for the above position comprises an annual base salary starting at USD 92,731 (subject to mandatory deductions for pension contributions and health insurance, as applicable), a variable post adjustment, which reflects the cost of living in a particular duty station, and currently amounts to USD 7156 per month for the duty station indicated above. Other benefits include 30 days of annual leave, allowances for dependent family members, home leave, and an education grant for dependent children.


    • This vacancy notice may be used to fill other similar positions at the same grade level.

    • Only candidates under serious consideration will be contacted.

    • A written test and/or an asynchronous video assessment may be used as a form of screening.

    • In the event your candidature is retained for an interview, you will be required to provide, in advance, a scanned copy of the degree(s)/diploma(s)/certificate(s) required for this position. WHO only considers higher educational qualifications obtained from an institution accredited/recognized in the World Higher Education Database (WHED), a list updated by the International Association of Universities (IAU)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The list can be accessed through the link: Some professional certificates may not appear in the WHED and will require individual review.

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