A group of regulators, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council, have called on every healthcare professional to tell patients when something has gone wrong with treatment or care.
The NMC and seven other regulators have pledged to “do more to put openness and honesty at the heart of healthcare” by unveiling a joint commitment to a duty of candour.
“A duty of candour is essential for nurses and midwives”
The group – which includes the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council – described the joint pledge as a “milestone”.
It follows recommendations in the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which called for a legal duty of candour on individual health professionals and organisations providing healthcare services.
The eight regulators have issued a joint statement saying every healthcare professional “must be open and honest with patients when something goes wrong with their treatment or care which causes, or has the potential to cause, harm or distress”.
The Francis report
They added that this meant healthcare professionals must also apologise to patients, offer an appropriate remedy to put matters right and explain the potential long-term effects of the incident fully to the patient.
The NMC said the pledge would ensure a common approach to duty of candour and that it would “serve as a reminder to all healthcare professionals of their duty not only to be open and honest in their own dealings with patients, but to remind and support colleagues to do the same”.
A spokeswoman for the NMC added it was also working with the GMC to produce joint guidance on how healthcare professionals should implement their duty of candour, for which there would be a consultation later this year.
Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said: “A duty of candour is essential for nurses and midwives.
“Through this joint statement from the healthcare professional regulators, patients and the public can be clear in what they can expect from all the healthcare professionals who care for them,” she said.
In February 2013, the Francis report recommended that a statutory obligation be imposed on both organisations providing healthcare and registered health professionals to observe a duty of candour.
Nursing Times has also been calling for these reforms as part of its Speak Out Safely campaign, which was launched following the Francis report.
In its response to the report, the government said it would introduce the recommended new statutory duty of candour for organisations. But it did not agree to a similar law covering individuals and instead announced that existing professional codes of conduct would be beefed up.
As a result, the NMC and the other regulators agreed to draw up consistent approaches to candour and reporting of errors, including a common responsibility across doctors and nurses and other health professions to be candid with patients when mistakes occur whether serious or not.
Meanwhile, the new duty of candour on organisations came into force on 1 October for NHS bodies and is being policed by the Care Quality Commission. It will be extended to other health and social care organisations from April 2015, subject to parliamentary approval.
The regulators that have issued the joint statement are: