‘There seems to be near universal agreement that candour is an essential component in today’s healthcare.’ - Robert Francis QC, Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry

Mistakes are inevitable within health and social care. However, it is what happens once such mistakes occur that is often more important for both those providing care and those receiving it.  As Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said: ‘To err is human, to cover up is unforgiveable, to fail to learn is inexcusable.’

Since 1 April 2013, any providers of NHS funded healthcare have been subject to a contractual duty of candour set out within Service Condition 35 of the NHS Standard Contract. If a ‘Reportable Patient Safety Incident’ occurs (i.e. a patient safety incident resulting in death, severe harm or moderate harm as defined by the National Patient Safety Agency’sSeven Steps to Patient Safety publication in 2004), the provider must immediately report the incident, carry out an investigation, notify and apologise to the patient (or another appropriate person on their behalf) and provide them with all necessary support and all relevant information about the incident.

However, from October 2014, this contractual duty will be expanded upon and the duty of candour will, in Francis’ words, be elevated to its rightful place of significance and placed on a statutory footing, affecting all providers registered with the CQC – not just those providing NHS funded healthcare.