What is Duty of Candour?

Author:
Sean McCann
Partner, Medical Negligence Solicitor
Date:
17/11/2020

Duty of Candour means all healthcare professionals must be open, honest and transparent about the treatment with patients about the treatment they’re receiving.

In particular, they must be open and honest when something goes wrong, as any wall of silence can leave patients understandably frustrated and add to the upset they may already be going through.

Duty of Candour also means that if medical negligence does happen, the healthcare provider should give reasonable support and, if appropriate, an apology when something has gone wrong.

This is a very important duty that must be discharged by a healthcare professional. If they don’t, they’ll have committed an offence and face the very real prospect of being prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

If you’ve been affected by medical negligence and have questions about what options are open to you, contact our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free claims assessment. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation with you, and may be able to represent you on a No Win, No Fee basis – ask us for details.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

NHS Trust Fined in First Ever Lack of Candour Prosecution

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust was recently fined by the CQC for failing to discharge its Duty of Candour, following the death of a patient at Derriford Hospital.

The CQC brought the prosecution after it found the NHS Trust hadn’t shared information with the patient’s family as to what had happened, or apologised within a reasonable timeframe. The NHS Trust admitted to its failings and was ordered to pay a fine plus legal costs totalling more than £12,000.

Following the judgment, Deputy Judge Joanna Matson described the offence as “a very good example of why these regulatory offences are very important”.

“Not only have (the family) had to come to terms with their tragic death, but their loss has been compounded by the Trust’s lack of candour,” she said.

What Should Happen?

The Care Quality Commission states that healthcare providers must “promote a culture that encourages, candour, openness and honesty at all levels”, as well as commit to being “open and transparent at board level or its equivalent, such as a governing body”.

So if medical negligence does take place, the healthcare provider responsible must assess whether it should tell the patient what’s happened.

In order to meet the regulations, they must:

  • Tell the relevant person, in person, as soon as is reasonably practicable after a safety incident has occurred
  • Provide support to them in relation to the incident
  • Give an accurate account of what’s happened
  • Advise the patient what further enquiries they believe are appropriate
  • Offer an apology
  • Follow up the apology by giving the same information in writing, and providing an update on the enquiries
  • Keep a written record of all communication with the relevant person

The Duty of Candour was created because of concerns about the behaviour and lack of transparency in some NHS Trusts, and aims to build trust between healthcare professionals and patients who have suffered harm.

So the fact that an NHS Trust has been prosecuted for not discharging this duty is a stark reminder to healthcare professionals that they must remain open and transparent.

These are fundamental principles to our Medical Negligence Solicitors, who are always keen to work with the NHS to settle compensation claims, and encouraged dialogue and positive engagement. Every time we settle a claim, we want to achieve two things - the best possible settlement for our client and for the NHS to learn lessons for the future, so the same mistakes aren’t made again.

We’ve found that by using methods such as Mediation, both sides have a chance to speak directly to each other in a non-confrontational setting, and both come away genuinely understanding each other’s point of view.

The fact that a prosecution has been made by the CQC regarding the Duty of Candour will hopefully lead to more NHS Trusts acting in the spirit of openness and working to settle claims amicably and constructively.

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