The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council have begun a consultation on draft guidance designed to support doctors, nurses and midwives to be open about mistakes.
The joint proposals on the so-called “duty of candour” cover the need to learn from “near misses” as well as when something goes wrong and a patient is harmed. There is also advice on apologising to patients and those close to them.
“We want to know if it is clear enough, covers everything it should and we would welcome ideas on how best to illustrate the guidance working in practice”
In addition, the draft guidance calls on clinical leaders and employers to support clinicians by creating cultures in the workplace that are “open, honest, and where people learn from mistakes” so that future patients are protected from harm.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who will be speaking at an event to mark the launch of the joint consultation this evening, said: “Transparency and honesty when things go wrong are powerful tools to improve patient safety, and part of the continued culture change we are determined to see.
“These new guidelines will complement the statutory duty of candour on organisations and help make the NHS safer than ever before,” he added.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said collaborating with the NMC on the new joint guidance would “ensure that doctors, nurses and midwives are working to a common standard”.
“But it will only be of any use if it makes sense in day-to-day practice and that is why we are now going to consult with patients and with doctors, nurses and midwives who deal with these issues on the clinical frontline,” he said.
“We want to know if it is clear enough, covers everything it should and we would welcome ideas on how best to illustrate the guidance working in practice,” he added.
NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: “This guidance will help nurses, midwives and doctors – who work closely together – to uphold a common duty of candour and meet the responsibilities articulated in their professional standards.”
Last month the GMC, NMC and six other professional healthcare regulators in the UK published a joint statement, setting out their commitment to a duty of candour for healthcare professionals.
The new draft guidance follows Sir Robert Francis QC’s call for a more open and transparent culture within healthcare following the care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
The consultation is open until 5 January 2015. The GMC and NMC aim to publish their new joint guidance in March 2015.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This piece of work is an important step forward.
“NHS trust boards and managers must now lead by example and ensure their organisation has a culture which is good for staff and good for patients, with improved training and support around communication and more emphasis on openness,” he said.