Improving the safety of patient care is now a global issue. In 2004, the World Health Assembly supported the creation of the World Alliance for Patient Safety to coordinate, spread and accelerate improvements in patient safety internationally. Australia has been at the forefront of international work on patient safety and is working closely with the World Alliance. The World Alliance is taking forward work in six main action areas: Patients for Patient Safety; Reporting and Learning; Taxonomy; Solutions; Research; and Global Patient Safety Challenge. Despite differences in context, there are many common challenges for countries seeking to establish patient safety programs and initiatives. Looking forward, long-term action on patient safety must be built and sustained with the commitment of policy makers and the active engagement of health care professionals.