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NHS faces new laws on honesty

New laws should be brought in requiring all NHS staff and directors to be open and honest when mistakes happen, the Francis report has recommended.

These would include a new power for the Care Quality Commission to prosecute organisations and individuals who break the rules.

In his long-awaited report, which makes a total of 290 recommendations, Robert Francis QC has called for a statutory duty of candour to be imposed on NHS directors to be “truthful” with information they give to healthcare regulators.

He has also called for a change in the law to impose a duty of candour on all doctors, nurses and registered professionals to admit mistakes that resulted in “death or serious injury”, to their employer as soon as possible.

All healthcare providers should also be required by law to inform the patient or relatives of the mistake and provide information to them.

Mr Francis has also recommended a new criminal offence should be created where any healthcare worker who knowingly obstructs others, provides misleading information to patients or families, or makes a dishonest statement to a commissioner or regulator could be prosecuted.

Mr Francis said the CQC should be given the power to police this duty of candour and prosecute the most serious cases.

In his executive summary Mr Francis said: “Stafford was not an event of such rarity or improbability that it would be safe to assume that it has not been and will not be repeated.

“The extent of the failure of the system shown in this report suggest that a fundamental culture change is needed. That does not require root and branch reorganisation − the system has had many of those − but it requires changes which can largely be implemented within the system that has now been created by the new reforms.

“I hope that the recommendations… put patients where they are entitled to be − the first and foremost consideration of the system and everyone who works in it.”

Readers' comments (6)

  • Staff need to talk to someone not tainted by the institution. A whistle blowers confessional funded by the Health and WellBeing Board administered by Healthwatch and on neutral territory. This could allow complaints/information to be anonymised but expedited

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I agree with Patrick Newman (above). Unless there is some sort of protection for whistleblowers no legislation imposed will make a difference to the current situation of
    a. turning a blind eye by those who want to speak up for fear of persecution
    b. Senior Trust managers victimising & bullying whistleblowers who dare to speak up.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Accountants and lawyers already have bodies they are members of and can be struck off. It's the general managers that have no accountability.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I am a manager at a senior level, my organisation does support me in raising concerns where we are failing. The wider system is however so risk adverse it fails to embrace this as strength and fails to respond with positive support for improvement.
    Until commissioners and regulators can make a proportional and positive response to the identification of failings as part of an approach to supportive improvement we will continue to have a problem and culture of of fear.
    The admission of failure and acceptance of a need of improvement needs to be seen as a strength not a failure at commissioner level and above

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I am a manager at a senior level, my organisation does support me in raising concerns where we are failing. The wider system is however so risk adverse it fails to embrace this as strength and fails to respond with positive support for improvement.
    Until commissioners and regulators can make a proportional and positive response to the identification of failings as part of an approach to supportive improvement we will continue to have a problem and culture of of fear.
    The admission of failure and acceptance of a need of improvement needs to be seen as a strength not a failure at commissioner level and above

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I am a manager at a senior level, my organisation does support me in raising concerns where we are failing. The wider system is however so risk adverse it fails to embrace this as strength and fails to respond with positive support for improvement.
    Until commissioners and regulators can make a proportional and positive response to the identification of failings as part of an approach to supportive improvement we will continue to have a problem and culture of of fear.
    The admission of failure and acceptance of a need of improvement needs to be seen as a strength not a failure at commissioner level and above

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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