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Being honest about errors in care: the guidance every nurse should read

NMC has updated its advice on duty of candour, which reminds staff of their professional obligation to be open with patients and colleagues when things go wrong

NMC has updated its advice on duty of candour, which reminds staff of their professional obligation to be open with patients and colleagues when things go wrong

Guidance setting out nurses’ professional obligation to be honest when something goes wrong has been updated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The guidance, first published in collaboration with the General Medical Council in 2015, sets out how nurses and midwives should be open with patients and colleagues when things don’t go as planned and may cause harm, including how to apologise to patients and families.

Being honest ‘will help us all to understand how and why things went wrong’

On Tuesday

NMC has updated its advice on duty of candour, which reminds staff of their professional obligation to be open with patients and colleagues when things go wrong

Picture: iStock

Guidance setting out nurses’ professional obligation to be honest when something goes wrong has been updated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The guidance, first published in collaboration with the General Medical Council in 2015, sets out how nurses and midwives should be open with patients and colleagues when things don’t go as planned and may cause harm, including how to apologise to patients and families.

Being honest ‘will help us all to understand how and why things went wrong’

On Tuesday the NMC published a refreshed version to update nurses on reporting systems, terminology, and the support available to health and care professionals.

Geraldine Walters

NMC executive director of professional practice Geraldine Walters said: ‘It’s vital that health and care professionals understand their responsibility to be open and honest with people who use services, their employers, and the NMC.

‘This will help us all to understand how and why things went wrong and avoid similar incidents in the future. The Code and this guidance will help nursing and midwifery professionals to understand and apply the duty of candour. This will help ensure that people who use services receive the care they deserve and have a right to expect.’

Culture of openness will benefit patients, staff and employers

The professional duty of candour applies to all health and care professionals, and its main objective is to promote a culture of openness that will support people to speak up about concerns.

It is designed to assist nurses in talking to patients about subjects such as potential errors in their care.

‘This guidance is not intended for circumstances where a patient’s condition gets worse due to the natural progression of their illness,’ the document states.

‘It applies when something goes wrong with a patient’s care, and they suffer harm or distress as a result.’

The importance of reporting incidents

The guidance also outlines how nurses have a duty to report incidents, and be open and honest with their colleagues, managers and employers. This might include their health board, trust or head office, and the NMC.

The NMC will host a webinar on 25 April to explain more.


Read the guidance on duty of candour

Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour

Sign up for the webinar

NMC & GMC Duty of Candour webinar


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