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Need to be candid with patients reinforced with new guidance

30 June 2015

Need to be candid with patients reinforced with new guidance

The General Medical Council and the Nursery and Midwifery Council have, jointly, issued new guidance to help healthcare professionals understand the principles of openness and honesty in the healthcare setting, and how to approach issues.

It aims to foster a culture of mutual understanding, where good faith and intentions are clear and where admitting a mistake doesn’t lead to damaging legal issues. Niall Dickson, Chief Exec of the GMC, commented: “We recognise that things can and do go wrong sometimes. It is what doctors, nurses and midwives do afterwards that matters. We also want to send out a clear message to employers and clinical leaders - none of this will work without an open and honest learning culture, in which staff feel empowered to admit mistakes and raise concerns.”

Reacting to this guidance, Michael Devlin, Medical Defence Union head of professional standards and liaison said: “he MDU has been advising doctors for over 50 years to let the patient know and apologise as soon as they realise something has gone wrong.

“Today's guidance is a helpful reinforcement of that message, though the GMC has required doctors to act in this way for many years. When doctors call us for advice after an incident, we talk them through how they plan to explain what they will do to try to put things right if possible to the patient and their family and of course to say sorry.

“A survey of over 600 MDU members last year, found that 99% knew about their duty to be open and honest with patients. And of the 374 doctors who had been involved in an incident over 95% had given the patient an explanation and apologised.

“This joint guidance from the GMC and NMC helps to reinforce the message about the importance of being open and honest with patients. It makes it clear that the professional duty of candour applies to all healthcare staff and they need to make sure that the most appropriate member of the team - usually the person who can best explain what has happened and what can be done to try to put things right - talks to the patient and says sorry.”

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