Duty of Candour – What Does it Even Mean?

Following on from the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry, as a result of an unusually high death rate at that NHS trust, recommendations were made to impose a “duty of candour” on all providers of health and social care in England. The exact wording is currently under consultation; but the question is what does this even mean? Here at Armstrong Foulkes, we try to cut through the legal jargon and explain things in a language that everybody understands.

In simple terms, “a duty of candour” will impose a duty on medical professionals/bodies to tell patients, or their families, if they have suffered significant harm whilst in their care. It may be surprising to learn that no such requirement already exists, but there is currently no statutory (legal) duty on hospitals to tell you what has happened, which has led to allegations they have been ‘covering up’ mistakes.

It will apply to any health or social care provider in England including GPs and private providers.

It is our view that this duty of candour is long overdue and you should be told about what went on during your hospital stay if something goes wrong. A failure to do so leaves the most vulnerable people searching for answers.

For many clients their primary concern when they first come to see us is finding out what happened to them or their loved ones whilst in hospital. A more open and forthcoming approach from the hospitals is welcome and will go some way to address these concerns.

Sometimes openness, and even an apology, is enough to satisfy a client. However, sometimes serious injuries and/or long-lasting consequences arise out of these incidents and the solicitors here at Armstrong Foulkes can advise you whether or not the circumstances also give rise to a legal claim in which you can recover compensation. Compensation is for the injuries and financial losses suffered, and also any future needs, and is not something that will be provided for by this duty of candour. Therefore even if you receive information from the hospital/healthcare provider, we always recommend that you speak to us about whether you have grounds for such a claim.

We will help you in finding out the answers to the questions you most need answering, and we promise to do so in a jargon-free, clear way!

Andrew Walker – May 2014