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Doctors should be honest when things go wrong
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30th June 2015
AUK Staff
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 This joint guidance from the GMC and NMC helps to reinforce the message about the importance of being open and honest with patients
 Dr Michael Devlin
The professional duty to be open and honest with patients when things go wrong is not new but the recent publication of joint guidance by the General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) gives further information on what is required of healthcare professionals, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) explained.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison said:

"The MDU has been advising doctors for over 50 years to let the patient know and apologise as soon as they realise something has gone wrong. This guidance is a helpful reinforcement of that message, though the GMC has required doctors to act in this way for many years. When doctors call us for advice after an incident, we talk them through how they plan to explain what they will do to try to put things right if possible to the patient and their family and of course to say sorry.

"A survey of over 600 MDU members last year, found that 99% knew about their duty to be open and honest with patients. And of the 374 doctors who had been involved in an incident over 95% had given the patient an explanation and apologised.

"This joint guidance from the GMC and NMC helps to reinforce the message about the importance of being open and honest with patients. It makes it clear that the professional duty of candour applies to all healthcare staff and they need to make sure that the most appropriate member of the team - usually the person who can best explain what has happened and what can be done to try to put things right - talks to the patient and says sorry.

 The guidance also makes it clear that as well as talking to the patient there is usually a need to report the incident to the organisation or to a body like CQC
 Dr Michael Devlin
"The guidance also makes it clear that as well as talking to the patient there is usually a need to report the incident to the organisation or to a body like CQC. Different legal duties apply throughout the UK and most trusts and practices also have their own need, for example, to be told about near misses.

"We think the GMC's guidance that "clinical leaders should actively foster a culture of learning and improvement"(paragraph 29) will be key to achieving a culture in which all NHS staff feel they have full and unqualified support when following their ethical responsibility to be open and honest with patients and to report incidents."


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