Nurses could soon be legally bound to inform a patient after they have made a drug or other treatment error, under plans being considered by the Department of Health.
Nursing Times has learnt that discussions are about to begin on a proposal to introduce a “corporate duty of candour” on treatment errors, which was included in the government’s coalition agreement document published last month.
The move, which also formed part of the Liberal Democrats original health manifesto, “will require hospitals to be open about mistakes and always tell patients if something has gone wrong”.
The charity Action against Medical Accidents has told Nursing Times it is meeting with the Department of Health and other interested parties next week to discuss the proposal.
The charity’s chief executive Peter Walsh said trusts failing to demonstrate compliance with it should have their registration reviewed by the Care Quality Commission..
He said a “duty of candour” should not be specific to clinical staff but should apply to trust chief executives and all board members involved in healthcare provision.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was “essential” to be honest with patients when things went wrong and that a decision on how to take the proposal forward “will be reached in due course”.
A survey on drug errors, carried out by Nursing Times, suggests that such a move would be supported by a majority of nurses.
Of the 1,900 nurses who responded to the online survey on medication administration, 45 per cent said it should become mandatory for patients to be made aware of drug errors, whether or not the error resulted in harm to the patient. Only 7 per cent of respondents were completely against the move, while 34 per cent said patients should only be informed if they were harmed or their condition changed as a result of the error.
Foundation of Nursing Studies chief executive Theresa Shaw said: “Although it may be hard to admit to a patient that a drug error has been made, if patients feel [nurses] are being honest with them it could increase trust in the longer term. Trying to hide it will inevitably backfire.”