New GMC Guidance Places Greater Focus On Honesty

The GMC And NMC Want A Culture Of Honesty Created Within The NHS

04.11.2014

A public consultation on draft guidance encouraging medical staff in the UK to be more open and honest about any mistakes they make with regard to patient care has been launched by the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

It is hoped that encouraging doctors and nurses to own up to any errors they make in their work will provide patients with greater reassurances about their care and improve the overall honesty of the country's health service.

The GMC and NMC want to see a universal approach adopted in relation to what should be done when something goes wrong, with proposals in the draft guidance also emphasising that medical staff should learn from 'near misses'.

In addition, the two medical councils have issued suggestions on how exactly doctors and nurses should apologise to patients who have not received the very best standard of care possible, as well as how they should explain mistakes to their next of kin.

Furthermore, the guidance is calling for more honest workplace cultures to be created in hospitals and other medical facilities, which the GMC is urging clinical leaders and employers to support, in order to create a better environment for staff and patients alike.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt called honesty "a powerful tool" for improving patient safety, before adding that these new measures could help to make the NHS a significantly safer organisation.

Chief executive of the NMC Jackie Smith commented: "Healthcare professionals have a responsibility to be open and honest in the best interests of the people they care for. And we as regulators are responsible for protecting the public who use their services.

"The duty of candour will enhance public protection, as it will nurture an open and constructive learning environment. This in turn will support healthcare professionals who wish to raise concerns."

The launch of the public consultation follows last month's news that the GMC, NMC and six other health regulators had set out their commitment to a duty of candour in a joint statement.

Expert Opinion
We welcome the guidelines set out by the GMC and NMC as it is important to improve and standardise the process when mistakes occur in the care and treatment provided to patients. In our work we regularly see NHS Trusts and medical staff refusing to admit to errors in care, which forces our clients to prepare for trial, only for the NHS Trust to then admit liability days before the case is due to be heard.

“It is vital these new honesty guidelines are implemented as soon as possible in order to foster a better environment for patients and medical staff and that there is a feeling of honesty between the two groups. We hope that a more open and honest environment will not only lead to better patient care, it will ensure any failings are raised by staff and dealt with appropriately.”
Julianne Moore, Partner