Openness and honesty when things go wrong – new guidance for doctors, nurses and midwives

29 June 2015

We are today launching new joint guidance for doctors, nurses and midwives on the professional duty of candour, in partnership with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The guidance, Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour builds on advice in Medical practice and the NMC’s which says that doctors, nurses and midwives have a professional duty to be open and honest with patients when things go wrong. It says that they should always report when mistakes are made that have compromised – or could have compromised – patient safety.

Why do we need the guidance?

The Mid Staffordshire Inquiry showed that staff can feel inhibited and that more needed to be done to reinforce the requirement not only for health professionals to be open and honest, but also for the organisations in which they work to foster a culture that is transparent, supportive and encourages reporting and learning from mistakes.

The guidance says that doctors, nurses and midwives should:

  • speak to a patient, or those close to them, as soon as possible after they realise something has gone wrong with their care
  • apologise to the patient, explaining what happened, what can be done if they have suffered harm and what will be done to prevent someone else being harmed in the future
  • report errors at an early stage so that lessons can be learned quickly, and patients are protected from harm in the future.

Read the press release about the launch.

Find out more

For more information, take a look at:

  • the guidance
  • joint statement on candour (pdf) from the chief executives of the healthcare professional regulators
  • (pdf) of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (executive summary)
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