The new professional guidance that demands doctors and nurses are open about their mistakes does not include an explicit warning against staff obstructing or bullying their colleagues, campaigners have claimed.

The new professional duty of candour, unveiled last week by the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, follows recommendations by Sir Robert Francis QC after the public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.


The NMC said ‘anyone who wishes to raise an issue of any kind should be free to do so’

Sir Robert called for a legal “duty of candour” on individual clinicians, making it a criminal offence to obstruct others from exercising their responsibilities to be open and honest about errors in patient care.

The government rejected this, proposing a duty on organisations to be honest with their professional regulators, which were asked to draw up guidance to enact it.

But while last week’s draft guidance states staff should encourage openness and not stop people from raising concerns, it contains no explicit warning against obstructing others from exercising their duty of candour.

Peter Walsh from the patient safety charity Action Against Medical Accidents said the recommendations from Sir Robert had not been adopted.

“The production of guidance on the professional duty is a step in the right direction, but it only tells professionals in more detail what in theory they are already obliged to do.

“What will be necessary for us to have confidence in the professional duty of candour is a clear indication from the regulators themselves about what they will do differently.”

He said there had been a failure of regulators in the past to promote and enforce existing rules, which would need to change if the new measures were to be success.

Both the GMC and the NMC said existing codes of conduct, which were in place when events at Mid Staffordshire took place, included guidance on bullying.

A spokeswoman for the NMC said: “Anyone who wishes to raise an issue of any kind should be free to do so in the best interest of the people in their care.

“To bully or obstruct someone who wishes to exercise their duty of candour goes against the fundamental principles of nursing and midwifery practice as they are set out in the [NMC] code.

A spokesman for the GMC said it was already clear in its good medical practice guidance that doctors must treat colleagues with respect and act with honesty and integrity.

The public consultation over the new guidance will run until 5 January 2015.