Hospital Dr News

GMC sets out the professional duty of candour

The GMC has published a joint statement with other healthcare regulators setting out a professional duty of candour.

The statement clarifies what the regulators expect from doctors and other health professionals wherever they work across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

The joint statement says ‘Every healthcare professional must be open and honest with patients when something goes wrong with their treatment or care which causes, or has the potential to cause, harm or distress’.

In addition to the statement, the GMC is also working with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) to develop joint explanatory guidance to on what a professional duty of candour means in practice for doctors, nurses and midwives.

This will expand on the advice in the GMC’s core guidance, Good Medical Practice.

It will also emphasise how doctors, nurses and midwives must promote and encourage a learning culture by reporting near misses as well as adverse incidents that lead to harm.

Niall Dickson, CEO of the GMC, said: “We recognise that guidance is only worthwhile when it can be used in everyday practice. That is why we will be working with doctors not only on the content, but on how it can be implemented effectively on the clinical frontline.

“We know that many front line staff can feel under enormous pressures and that the culture of the institutions in which they work is vital in creating the conditions for openness and honesty – not a blame culture but a learning culture. And that means everyone in the healthcare team feeling able to raise concerns.”

The GMC says the joint statement means all healthcare professionals must:

– tell the patient (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family) when something has gone wrong;

– apologise to the patient  (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family);

– offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right (if possible); and

– explain fully to the patient (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family) the short and long term effects of what has happened.

It also suggests that doctors must also be open and honest with their colleagues, employers and relevant organisations, such as regulators, and take part in reviews and investigations when requested.

Dickson added: “The awful reality that emerged from Mid Staffs and indeed other inquiries was that doctors knew about our guidance but were not empowered by it. They felt it was acceptable to ‘walk by the other side of the ward’ knowing that there was unsafe and unacceptable practice going on.

“We must all do what we can to make sure that does not happen again. The joint statement we have signed, is an important milestone and makes it clear that the professional duty of candour sits with every healthcare professional, regardless of their field of practice.”

The guidance will be consulted on in November, with a few to it being published in March 2015.

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