Being open and honest with patients when something goes wrong
All healthcare regulators produce 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.
Our duty of candour 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.
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.
As would be expected, the key amendments 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 guidance took effect on 1 July 2016.