0370 1500 100

NHS Urged To Apologise For Errors

Saying Sorry "Can Help Reduce Formal Complaints"


A health watchdog has given some guidelines to NHS trust staff in an attempt to create a more open culture about mistakes.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), which keeps a check on NHS errors in England, said if staff apologise to patients when errors occur, it can go some way to alleviating the distress caused and can even help reduce formal complaints and legal action.

NPSA chief executive Martin Fletcher explained: "Being open is the right thing to do."

"Making a genuine apology to a patient and their family after an error has occurred is a very hard thing to do for any clinician."

The NPSA runs a voluntary system under which NHS trusts can report mistakes in a bid to help staff learn from them and improve care in the future.

The watchdog said patients and their families would feel much better if staff just owned up to the error and apologised.

Meanwhile, the Action Against Medical Accidents patient group said "Being open when things go wrong" was important.

Of nearly 500,000 reports the NPSA received over the last six months, more than 5,700 were classed as serious - either resulting in death or permanent harm.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Georgina Sheldon from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “Unfortunately, we are often approached by patients who feel very aggrieved by the way in which their complaints have been handled by the NHS.

“There is an impression amongst many patients that the staff involved will not admit to errors and instead simply deny that anything went wrong. Many of the people who come to us tell us that they may not have sought legal advice at all if their complaints had been taken seriously by the NHS and if a genuine apology had been made."