The 1st April 2015 saw the introduction of the new statutory duty of candour. Its aim was to ensure that patients receive accurate, truthful information from their health care providers. Health and wellbeing are easily the most important element of any individual’s life. So when we become ill, it is a very stressful and difficult time. We immediately turn for help and treatment from healthcare professionals. Quite rightly we trust and rely on them and we quite literally put our lives in their hands. We don’t like to imagine things going wrong when at these important points. But unhappily, medical treatment and surgery can go wrong. Like the rest of us, the medical professionals we trust can make mistakes.
This became all too clear when the spotlight shone on events which took place at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust between 2005 and 2009. A report which was carried out by Robert Francis Q.C in February 2013 highlighted the findings of a lengthy public enquiry. The discoveries included failure by the management team to put right deficiencies in staff and governance which had existed for a long time. Attention was focused on Mid Staffs partly because of alarming and unacceptable mortality rates, but mainly because of the weight of persistent complaints made by a very determined group of patients and their families. This group wanted to know why they and their loved ones had been failed so badly.
As long ago as 1955 the Medical Defence Union advised its medical profession members that patients should be given an explanation if something were to go wrong. In 1986 they advised doctors that the patient is entitled to a prompt, sympathetic and – above all – truthful account of what has occurred. In 1998 a doctor’s ethical duty was clarified by the General Medical Council which introduced an obligation to be open and honest when things go wrong. So there has long since been a professional, ethical duty to tell patients what has happened if they suffer harm during the course of their treatment.
After the Francis report was published the Government thought it necessary to makes these duties a binding obligation by implementing existing law.
The statutory duty of candour was introduced for NHS bodies in England (Trusts, foundation Trusts and special health authorities) from 27 November 2014, and applied to all other care providers registered with the Care Quality Commission with effect from 1 April 2015.
In early March 2014, it became apparent that the Government planned to water down the statutory Duty of Candour which applies to GPs, dentists and pharmacists and in private healthcare.
There is a clear, moral imperative to tell patients and their families when medical treatment goes wrong. If you or a member of your family are affected by a medical accident, WBW are here to help
and advise you. We can draft a letter of complaint, assess and pursue a possible injury claim.