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A blog considering a new leaflet providing accessible and key information for patients of their rights regarding the statutory ‘duty of candour’ when things have gone wrong with NHS medical treatment.
The Care Quality Commission (the CQC) has given its endorsement to a patient information leaflet prepared by the patient safety charity and campaign group AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents). The leaflet gives clear guidance to patients and their families on their right to receive honest and open information from medical staff in the event of an adverse event occurring. AvMA produced this leaflet after a hard won campaign battle to achieve a legal obligation on medical and social care staff to be open following an incident and to combat the “cover up” culture which prevailed.
Following an adverse event in medical care the first thing most patients and their families want is an explanation of what went wrong and answers to their many questions. It’s only when the patient can understand properly what has happened and why that they can start to move on from their experience. In my experience of acting for patients in relation to negligent medical treatment, if medical staff involved are not open and honest when communicating with patients it only goes to inflame the situation, leaving the patient feeling helpless and frustrated. In addition it denies the healthcare professionals and their colleagues from giving an apology when it’s due and from learning from their mistakes. An open “duty of candour” was called for and rightly given after far too many families reported a “cover up” culture within the NHS.
As a result of dedicated and passionate campaigning by AvMA, affected families and medical negligence lawyers the government reviewed its position on how healthcare and social care staff must respond to patient concerns after an adverse event has occurred.
AvMA commented: “November 2014 marked an historic advance in patients’ rights and patient safety in England with the introduction of a statutory duty of candour (a legal duty to be open and honest with patients about incidents that have caused or have the potential to result in significant harm).”
The primary legal duty of the duty of candour is on hospital, community and mental health trusts to inform and apologise to patients if there have been mistakes in their care that have led to significant harm. The purpose of the duty is to ensure a culture of transparency exists in the NHS and to be open and to say sorry when required. All NHS providers registered with the CQC have a legal obligation to comply with this duty.
Following their successful campaign AvMA have also now produced a leaflet, endorsed by the CQC, which summarises for patients their rights in situations where things have gone wrong, and in particular provides guidance and answers questions on:
This leaflet is a fantastic source of accessible information for patients and their families who need the key facts to hand at these difficult times, and offers further telephone advice if needed. It’s hoped this leaflet can be distributed widely so that everyone is aware of their rights to honest information.