Speaking out about mistakes should be “ingrained” in the training of student nurses and doctors, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
He said the government did not go far enough last year in its initial response to the Francis report to emphasise the importance of training students to be open about errors they make.
But Mr Hunt said that the Department of Health was now investigating how to address this. “We need to ingrain speaking out into the training of new doctors and nurses,” he said.
“We are working with training bodies to work this out – and it is quite challenging because we are trying to train new doctors and nurses to do something different to their elders and betters when they join their first hospital or clinical organisation, and the natural instinct is to do things the same way your superiors do,” said Mr Hunt.
“We are trying to train new doctors and nurses to do something different to their elders and betters”
His comments came at the launch of draft joint guidance by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and General Medical Council on the responsibility of individual staff to be honest with patients, colleagues and employers when an incident occurs which did, or could have, harmed a patient.
These joint proposals on the so-called “duty of candour” for each healthcare worker include guidelines around apologising to patients and learning from mistakes so as to avoid similar problems in the future.
When questioned about the lack of a system to train registered clinicians in how to learn from their mistakes, Mr Hunt acknowledged that a “better system for spreading learning” was required.
He said the launch of the draft guidance – which is out for consultation until 5 January 2015 – represented an “unbelievably significant” first step towards creating a culture in the health service which makes it easier for workers to speak out and learn from mistakes.
“If we get this right we will truly be the first country in the world across the health economy to say we are going to create a culture of openness, transparency and learning,” he told an audience of healthcare professionals and organisations at St Thomas’ Hospital in London last night.
“This could be a moment when the NHS blazes a trail in the 21st century about safety and healthcare,” he said.
The introduction of a legal duty of candour on both individuals and NHS organisations was recommended by the Francis report in February 2013.
It was also one of the aims of Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely campaign.
The government agreed to introduce a legal duty on organisations, but not on individuals, instead asking regulators to beef up existing requirements for candour in professional codes.