Doctors and nurses told to admit mistakes

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Doctors, nurses and midwives will be required to give face-to-face explanations and apologies when things go wrong, according to new guidelines.

The guidance, created by the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, states that medical staff should speak to a patient, or those close to them, as soon as possible after they realise something has gone wrong with their care. They are also urged to apologise to the patient and “use their professional judgement about whether to inform patients about near misses – incidents which have the potential to result in harm but do not”.

Staff should also report errors at an early stage “so that lessons can be learned quickly, and patients are protected from harm in the future”. The guidance also states that doctors or nurses must not try to prevent colleagues or former colleagues from raising concerns about patient safety. “Managers must make sure that if people do raise concerns they are protected from unfair criticism, detriment or dismissal”, it notes.

However the GMC and the NMC stressed that “professionals need to have the support of an open and honest working environment where they are able to learn from mistakes and feel comfortable reporting incidents that have led to harm”.

The guidance follows Sir Robert Francis’ call for a more open and transparent culture within healthcare in his report following the failures in patient care at Mid Staffordshire hospital.