NMC and GMC publish joint guidance on the duty of candour

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The NMC and GMC have this week published joint guidance on the duty of candour. The guidance sets out for the first time the standards expected of all doctors, nurses and midwives practicing in the UK in complying with the statutory duty of candour.

The guidance explains healthcare professionals’ duty to be open and honest with patients and to apologise when something has gone wrong. In particular, the guidance states that when something goes wrong with a patients treatment or care which has caused or has the potential to cause harm or distress, healthcare professionals must:

Tell the patient (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family) when something has gone wrong.
Apologise to the patient (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family)
Offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right (if possible).
Explain fully to the patient (or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family) the short and long term effects of what has happened.
The guidance also promotes a learning culture within organisations where errors are reported in a timely manner. It states that healthcare organisations should have policies in place explaining how to report adverse incidents and near misses.

Commenting on the new guidance, Jackie Smith, Chief Executive of the NMC, 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 thigs have gone wrong. The test is how individuals and organisations respond to those instances and the culture they build as a result.”

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC 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 leads – 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.”

The guidance, titled ‘Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour’ can be accessed at the following link:


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