This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

CAMHS won't see you now

GPs must provide 'honest explanation' to patients if something goes wrong, says GMC

GPs and other medical professionals must provide a ‘clear and honest explanation’ to patients when something goes wrong with their treatment, under new joint guidelines devised by the GMC and NMC.

The draft guidance proposed in the regulators’ consultation, Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour, outlines that doctors, nurses and midwives will have a ‘professional duty of candour’ to be open and honest with patients or those close to them, if something goes wrong with their patient care.

It also states that if someone in their care has ‘suffered harm or distress’ because something has gone wrong, then the healthcare professional should apologise as soon as it becomes apparent.

This follows a joint declaration made by healthcare regulators on the issue last month.

The draft guidance calls on clinical leaders and employers to support doctors, nurses and midwives by creating ‘cultures in the workplace that are open, honest, and where people learn from mistakes so that future patients are protected from harm’.

The aim of the consultation is to provide more detailed guidance on the ‘professional duty of candour’ in addition to the exisiting professional standards set out in Good medical practice for doctors and in The Code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘Patients deserve a clear and honest explanation if something has gone wrong with their care. This is why, for the first time, we are collaborating on this new joint guidance. It will ensure that doctors, nurses and midwives are working to a common standard and will know exactly what their responsibilities are.

‘But it will only be of any use if it makes sense in day-to-day practice and that is why we are now going to consult with patients and with doctors, nurses and midwives who deal with these issues on the clinical front line. We want to know if it is clear enough, covers everything it should and we would welcome ideas on how best to illustrate the guidance working in practice.’

Dr Catherine Wills, deputy head of advisory services at the MDU, said: ‘In our experience, GPs understand the importance of apologising when something has gone wrong. We don’t think this will change in any way as a result of the GMC’s draft guidance although it does provide a useful reminder to doctors of the steps to take when an incident has happened.

‘Doctors tell us time and again that apologising early to a patient or their family can help prevent a complaint altogether or resolve one more quickly – so it’s to everybody’s advantage to be open and honest from the outset.’




Readers' comments (7)

  • Vinci Ho

    While it is politically correct to say a code is to be applied to all medical professionals , what and where is the equivalent code that should be applied to stakeholders of NHS , senior or chief executives in DoH , NHSE , Secretary of State , etc , should patient suffers harm as a result of the mistakes of an administration ? Please do not tell us they are exempt from this code.Think about the Staffordshire scandal and would one consider that only the medical professionals involved in the case were to apologise?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho

    And of course , that goes back to what I would call 'dangerously flawed hypocrisy '.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Took Early Retirement

    When is the GMC going to admit, and apologise for, the fact that it is not fit to run a whelk stall?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • i think the truth of gross work overload should be admitted to as the primary reason for errors on practice..the dangerous work load currently is intrinsically unsafe and allows inadequate time for explanation to the patient of management decisions ....blame lies with incompetent administration of the nhs...where is the gmc in telling this truth..nowhere it seems.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The GMC has a "duty of candour" to admit that it has lost the trust and confidence of the Medical Profession and should take steps to rectify this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • But does being open and honest mean we can now tell patients if their management by the NHS administration or lack of follow up, or cheaper drug , is due to failure in the system or other? Surely that will damage the public confidence in the profession.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Doctors, Nurses working to a common standard . But the cannot and heres candidly why-
    The best hospital in the UK on ratings is Guys and St Thomas with 125 consultants per 100 beds. A failing hospital in Nottingham has 48 Consultants per 100 beds. The consultants work at least as hard, probably twice as hard in Nottingham, only to fail.
    Mid - Staffs was the equivalent of a 5* star hospital in 1999. Christine Hancock speaking at the RCN conference at Harrogate said of Mid- Staffs the following :
    Staff are crucial to looking after patients and if you cut their numbers to save money, patients will suffer. This statement was/is logical and self evident. They proceeded to cut 300 staff and the poor patients suffered horribly, as predicted.
    Any child would say that if you replaced the 300 staff, you would be likely to get your 5* hospital back.
    Oh NO, we live in the Quantum mechanics of the NHS. Enter Francis and 300 recommendations, including candour.
    Well, here is candour. 95% of staff in the NHS do more and work harder than they should to their own detriment in physical and mental health and failures like Mid Staff happen when you cut staff.
    There are no national yard sticks, no common staffing levels, no measures of safety based on simple mathematics. Till such time, it is torture to beat up on staff who are working way beyond safety.
    Any hospital in the land can become a Mid Staffs, and you can close any 5* hospital by cutting staff to breaking point. Then, of course, you can blame the staff for this failure, but NEVER the managers who cut the staff nor the DOH who cut the funding in the first place.
    Please compare oranges with oranges not apples.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say