Being open and honest when something goes wrong

Being open and honest with patients when something goes wrong

The duty of candour

All healthc​​are regulators are producing guidance on the duty of candour, which is the professional responsibility of healthcare professionals to be open and honest with patients when something goes wrong with their treatment or care.

This guidance is intended to encourage professionals to apologise where a patient’s’ care has fallen below the standard they should expect. Saying sorry is not the same as admitting liability and the guidance is designed to emphasise this point. If something has gone wrong with a patients’ treatment or care, they should receive an apology and that apology in no way reflects poorly upon the professional offering it.

In producing this guidance, the GDC engaged with a number of stakeholders including professional associations and defence organisations. The defence organisations were keen to emphasise that they believe that dental professionals should apologise when things go wrong and that this can often help to prevent a problem escalating. Once a draft of the guidance had been approved by Council, it was put out for public consultation for 12 weeks, finishing on 18 December 2015 

We also held workshops with patients, demonstrating our commitment to place patients at the heart of what we do, which can be found on the research section​ of our website.

These workshops showed that, among other things, quick acknowledgement of a problem, an appropriate apology and the offer of a remedy were​​ important to patients. Further feedback we considered is available on page three of April’s Council paper.

As would be expected, the key amendmenys to the guidance relate to apologies themselves; who should make the apology, clarity over legal implications, and the potential for written follow ups. 

Other changes included, where possible, replacing the term ‘candour’ with ‘being open and honest’ to provide better clarity of meaning. Additionally, the revised draft suggests whole team training in communication skills, including the handling of complaints, as being good practice for those managing a dental team.

The Council paper addressing these changes is also on the website

Being open and honest with patients when something goes wrong.pdfBeing open and honest with patients when something goes wrong.pdf

The guidance will take effect from 1 July 2016.