Medics must say sorry for mistakes
Medical professionals must apologise to patients and explain their mistakes, under new guidance.
Efforts should be made by doctors, nurses and midwives to speak to patients or their families as soon as they realise something has gone wrong, the guidance drawn up by the General Medical Council and Midwifery Council states.
The guidelines come in the wake of the Sir Robert Francis Inquiry into the Mid Staffs hospital crisis, which recommended a duty of candour be imposed on NHS staff after it emerged that up to 1,200 people may have died needlessly at Stafford Hospital due to poor care.
Staff should report errors at an early stage, the guidance advises, and use their professional judgement to decide whether they need to inform patients about "near misses" where harm could have but was not caused.
The guidelines also state that colleagues or former colleagues should not be prevented from raising concerns about patient safety, and managers are urged to ensure those who raise concerns are protected from unfair treatment as a result.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said there must be an open and honest environment where staff feel comfortable to both admit mistakes and raise concerns.
He said: " We recognise that things can and do go wrong sometimes. It is what doctors, nurses and midwives do afterwards that matters.
"If they act in good faith, are open about what has happened and offer an apology this can make a huge difference to the patient and those close to them.
"We also want to send out a clear message to employers and clinical leaders - none of this will work without an open and honest learning culture, in which staff feel empowered to admit mistakes and raise concerns.
"We know from the Mid Staffordshire enquiry and from our own work with doctors that such a culture does not always prevail. It remains one of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare system and a major impediment to safe effective care."
Jackie Smith, chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said: " We developed this joint guidance to help nurses, midwives and doctors to uphold a common duty of candour that is set out in their professional standards.
"They often work as part of a team and that should absolutely be our approach as regulators to ensure we are protecting the public.
"We believe that the public's health is best protected when the healthcare professionals who look after them work in an environment that openly supports them to speak to patients or those who care for them, when things have gone wrong.
"We can't stop mistakes from happening entirely and we recognise that sometimes things go wrong. The test is how individuals and organisations respond to those instances, and the culture they build as a result."