If the professional duty of candour is not exercised by all healthcare professionals, changing the culture in the medical workplace will never work, says the chief executive of the General Medical Council
Your article on the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s draft guidance on the professional duty of candour recognises that we require doctors, nurses and midwives to be open and honest when admitting mistakes.
However, it fails to acknowledge our clear and explicit guidance that obstructing anyone who raises concerns is not acceptable.
‘Doctors responsible for investigating an incident or complaint have a duty to protect colleagues brave enough to speak out’
Our specific advice on raising concerns is clear that doctors must not obstruct others from voicing patient safety concerns.
It is also explicit that doctors who are responsible for investigating an incident or complaint have a duty to protect colleagues who have been brave enough to speak out.
The recently launched joint statement on the professional duty of candour, supported by us and eight other professional healthcare regulators, emphasises that all healthcare professionals have a duty to support and encourage their colleagues to be open and honest and they must never obstruct them.
We know from the Mid Staffordshire inquiry and from our work with doctors that too often an open and honest culture does not prevail.
That is why we are actively confronting bullying and undermining behaviour in the workplace – not just through our guidance, but also through visits to local education providers and our annual national training survey.
Send a clear message
We are committed to following up every one of the comments we receive. Each year we publish reports on the issues highlighted in the survey, including patient safety concerns, and incidents of bullying and undermining behaviour.
Changing the culture in the medical workplace remains one of our biggest challenges, and is a major impediment to delivering safe and effective care.
‘Changing the culture in the medical workplace remains one of our biggest challenges’
We want to send out a very clear message to employers and clinical leaders: none of this will work unless the professional duty of candour is exercised by all.
The draft joint duty of candour guidance we have produced with the Nursing and Midwifery Council is a vital part of this work. I would encourage those healthcare professionals on the front line – and patients – to respond to the consultation.
Niall Dickson is chief executive and registrar of the General Medical Council