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GPs and patients invited to share views on legal ‘duty of candour’

GPs and patients invited to share views on legal ‘duty of candour’

The Government is inviting views on how well GP practices and other NHS organisations are complying with their legal duty of candour when things go wrong.

Patients and health professionals are being asked whether the statutory duty is well understood and adequately regulated by the CQC.

Under the statutory duty of candour, introduced for all CQC-registered providers in 2015, GP practices must be open and honest with their patients when something goes wrong and has caused harm. 

This is different to a doctor’s professional duty of candour, which is regulated by the GMC

In December, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced a review into whether healthcare providers are following the duty of candour rules.

This was in response to concerns that the duty is not always being met and that there is variation in how the rules are being applied. 

Today, the DHSC has published its ‘call for evidence’ to gather views on how well the duty of candour obligation is working for both patients and health professionals. 

Patients have been asked whether GP practices and other providers ‘demonstrate meaningful and compassionate engagement’ with patients who have been affected by an incident. 

The call for evidence also asks for views on whether the criteria for triggering the duty are appropriate and well understood by staff.

The current regulations

GP practices must follow duty of candour rules if a ‘notifiable safety incident’ occurs. An incident such as this must have been ‘unintended or unexpected’. And the GP must believe that the incident already has, or might, result in death or severe or moderate harm to the patient. This could include death, changes to the structure of the patient’s body, or the patient experiencing prolonged pain. 

If such an incident occurs, the GP practice must:

  • notify the patient in person, providing an explanation of what is known and an apology;
  • offer the patient support, such as emotional support or providing an interpreter;
  • provide the patient with written notes of these discussions.

It will be open until the end of May, and responses will inform recommendations as part of the review to improve the duty’s effectiveness

Health minister Maria Caulfield said she knows ‘how important it is’ that health providers are open with patients when something goes wrong, after working as a nurse in the NHS for 20 years.

‘I want to ensure that our system of duty of candour is kept up to date, so I urge anyone with views or experience to respond to the call for evidence to help inform our review, which will ensure that honesty and integrity remain at the heart of our health and social care services,’ she added.

Patient safety commissioner Henrietta Hughes said she welcomes the duty of candour review as ‘it is important that people do not struggle to get information when something has gone wrong’.

She continued: ‘Working with patients as partners is an opportunity for us to learn and improve. I would urge the public and clinicians to respond to this call for evidence.’

In 2021, the CQC updated its guidance on the duty of candour, clarifying that apologising for mistakes ‘does not mean accepting liability’ and will not affect indemnity cover.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 16 April, 2024 6:41 pm

hospitals and health boards are only interested in being able to thwack a stick upon GPs who are open enough with patients, but do not make ahuge fuss to self-flagellate every time some minor little thing goes wrong, and not in actually putting right any of the big problems in their own domains, even trying to force GPs to apologise when there are secondary care delays.
Why is it not acceptable, if it is acceptable to the patient, for a minor problem to be covered by just a verbal explanation?
Why must GP apologise when it is secondary care problem? and why in writing? and are you just trying to put GPs off working in UK?
Why are some GPs made to grovel for something not their fault, but others are allowed to lie in explanations? (or is that only private or directly managed practices that can misinform explanations?

Dr No 16 April, 2024 11:29 pm

May I be dutifully candid and state the greatest threat to patient safety in England is the Tory government and their wilful destruction of the NHS? Volte Face CQC and behold the real enemy of good care!