Duty of Candour

What is it?

The duty of candour arises from recommendations by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, also known as the Francis Inquiry.

Duty of candour is defined by Sir Robert Francis QC as “the volunteering of all relevant information to persons who have or may have been harmed by the provision of services, whether or not the information has been requested and whether or not a complaint or a report about that provision has been made”.

What does this mean?

In the event that a healthcare provider makes a mistake whether it be in providing patient care, treatment or advice and such mistake results in harm, or potential harm, to the patient then they must advise them, or their family, of the error regardless of whether a complaint has been made.

This is to ensure that honesty and transparency amongst health professionals and their patients becomes standard, which in turn should assist in boosting practice standards and patient care.

If a health professional is seen to be withholding information they could be liable for both criminal and civil sanctions.

What does ‘harm’ mean?

According to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Duty of Candour) Regulations 2014, harm can be defined as follows;

Moderate harm

  1. A moderate increase in treatment, to include a return to surgery, an unplanned re-admission, a prolonged episode of care, extra time in hospital or as an outpatient, cancelling of treatment, or transfer to another treatment area, e.g. intensive care
  2. Significant, but not permanent, harm
  3. Prolonged psychological harm, which the patient has experienced, or is likely to experience, for a continuous period of at least 28 days

Severe harm

Means a permanent lessening of bodily, sensory, motor, physiologic or intellectual functions, including removal of the wrong limb or organ or brain damage.

When does it come into force?

The new statutory duty of candour is scheduled to come into force in England and Wales in October 2014.

How the duty will work in practice is yet to be seen.  For further information regarding the duty of candour please ring Freephone 0800 988 1549.

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