Hospital Dr News

“Doctors don’t need a duty of candour”

Nearly all doctors understand their duty to be open and honest with patients or relatives when something goes wrong with their care.

Of 677 doctors who responded to an MDU survey, 99% knew about their ethical duty to provide an explanation and apology to patients.

The vast majority of those who had been involved in a recent incident (352) provided patients with an explanation and apology (341 and 326 respondents respectively). In most cases the doctors also explained how they would try to put things right.

The Department of Health recently consulted on proposals to introduce a statutory duty of candour through Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration. The proposed statutory duty would apply to providers of health and social care in England. The threshold at which the duty would apply is ‘significant harm’.

Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison at the MDU, said: “If doctors clearly understand the obligation to be open with patients when things go wrong and routinely carry out that duty, is a statutory duty of candour really necessary?

“The government intends to introduce the legal duty of candour from 1 October 2014, having introduced a contractual duty last year. We believe this will lead to an unnecessary administrative burden for medical staff and it is bound to lead to confusion about the types of incidents covered. This may cause doctors to delay giving patients an explanation and apology, which is obviously the opposite of what is intended.

“What is needed is for NHS organisations to ensure there is full and unqualified support for clinical staff who follow their ethical responsibility and are open and honest with patients.”

The survey also reveals that some hospital doctors are confused about the requirements of the contractual duty of candour, which applies to NHS hospitals in England. While more than three quarters of hospital doctors who responded to this question (332/431) knew that patients should be provided with an explanation and apology irrespective of the contractual requirements, only half (222) knew they had a duty to follow their organisation’s contractual duty of candour.

Other key findings from the survey include:

– The majority of respondents thought that doctors were more willing to provide patients with an explanation and apology now than 5 years ago (532).

– Nearly three quarters said they had never been in a position where they felt they couldn’t be open and honest with a patient (503).

– Eight out of 10 said they thought being under a legal duty to be open and honest with patients wouldn’t change the way their practised (554).

Approximately a third were GPs, a third were hospital consultants and a third were hospital training grades or other types of hospital doctor.

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One Response to ““Doctors don’t need a duty of candour””

  1. blackcat says:

    What doctors need is for the managers in their Trusts to have a duty of candour to them.So often the Consultant body is infantilised and marginalised by hubristic managers who act on a need to know basis -and usually they consder that we do not need to know!!

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