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New legislation expands GPs’ duty of candour

The GP duty of candour has been expanded to north of the border with the passing of the Health (Scotland) Bill last week by Holyrood MSPs.

The new statutory duty means GPs and other health and social care providers in Scotland will have to inform patients and their families when a patient has been accidentally harmed as a result of their care or treatment, either mentally or physically.

As part of the new duty, providers will also have to publish annual reports on the duty of candour, detailing the incidents during the year.

The passing of the new legislation comes as the BMA warned MSPs last year that a statutory duty of candour could create ‘significant amounts of unfunded work’ for GPs and ‘divert them away from core activities’.

Scottish public health minister Maureen Watt said of the Bill: ’Our proposals on duty of candour will ensure that health and social care providers are fully open when a patient has suffered unintentional harm. They will improve transparency, raise standards and help us to learn from past mistakes.’

A statutory duty of candour for the NHS in England was introduced in November 2014, while Northern Irish and Welsh health administrations have announced similar proposals that are yet to go through.

The Health (Scotland) Bill also introduces new criminal offences of wilful neglect or ill treatment that apply to the rare cases where there has been intentional neglect or ill-treatment in the health or social care system. This only applies to deliberate mistreatment and not instances of genuine error or accident.

It also brings in:

  • Regulation of e-cigarettes – banning the sale of non-medicinal e-cigarettes to under-18s or the purchase by an adult for a minor. Retailers also have to join a central register;
  • Making it a statutory offence to smoke in the vicinity of hospital buildings;
  • A duty on the NHS to provide equipment and support to people who lose their voices.