The professional duty of candour
Every healthcare professional must be open and honest with patients when something that goes wrong with their treatment or care causes, or has the potential to cause, harm or distress. This means that 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.
Healthcare professionals must also be open and honest with their colleagues, employers and relevant organisations, and take part in reviews and investigations when requested. They must also be open and honest with their regulators, raising concerns where appropriate. They must support and encourage each other to be open and honest, and not stop someone from raising concerns.
About this guidance
1 All healthcare professionals have a duty of candour – a professional responsibility to be honest with patients* when things go wrong.
*When we refer to ‘patients’ in this guidance, we also mean people who are in your care.
This is described in The professional duty of candour, which introduces this guidance and forms part of a joint statement from eight regulators of healthcare professionals in the UK.
2 As a doctor, nurse or midwife, you must be open and honest with patients, colleagues and your employers.
3 This guidance complements the joint statement from the healthcare regulators and gives more information about how to follow the principles set out in Good medical practice and The Code: Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives.
Appendix 1 sets out relevant extracts from General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) guidance. This guidance applies to all doctors registered with the GMC and all nurses and midwives registered with the NMC across the UK.
4 This guidance is divided into two parts.
- Your duty to be open and honest with patients in your care, or those close to them, if something goes wrong. This includes advice on apologising (paragraphs 6–21).
- Your duty to be open and honest with your organisation, and to encourage a learning culture by reporting adverse incidents that lead to harm, as well as near misses (paragraphs 22–33).
5 This guidance is for individuals. We recognise that care is normally provided by multidisciplinary teams, and we don’t expect every team member to take responsibility for reporting adverse incidents and speaking to patients if things go wrong. However, we do expect you to make sure that someone in the team has taken on responsibility for each of these tasks, and we expect you to support them as needed.