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Duty of candour consultation

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The Government has yesterday (March 26th) announced that a statutory ‘duty of candour’ is to be placed upon hospitals, GPs and other organisations.

The Francis Inquiry Report was prepared in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust scandal. The Francis Report made recommendations in order to improve the level of patient care; one of those recommendations being the introduction of the statutory duty of candour.

The NHS will now be obligated to inform people when mistakes have been made, whether or not a complaint has been raised.

Initially there were concerns about the scope of the duty of candour however, under a recent report commissioned by the Secretary of State, the duty of candour is to be extended to all cases of moderate and significant harm, including errors causing death. A consultation will begin and is expected to be in force by October.

The Secretary of State for Health has said that the duty of candour and the overhaul of the NHS will improve hospital standards and patient care by identifying mistakes which will then enable plans to be formulated to reduce the likelihood of the same mistakes happening again. He believes that a large proportion of avoidable harm and deaths can be reduced by compelling the NHS to be open and honest about any errors made.

Although it is yet to be seen whether the duty of candour will be effective, any change that encourages candidness, integrity and openness with patients is to be greeted with open arms.

By Nicola Hamblett, clinical negligence solicitor