The NHS doesn't do sorry 

The General Medical Council has issued tough new rules to doctors, nurses and midwives about admitting mistakes and apologising. The NHS doesn't do sorry. NHS managers will tell you that Legal have told them that apologising could be seen as admitting liability and weaken the Trust's position in any subsequent negligence claim. Professionals in all areas of business don't like admitting they get it wrong but the medical profession has traditionally had more difficult than most. Hence the need for the GMC to issue new rules. 

Perhaps its the aura of infallibility consultants like to project, after all you do need to have absolute confidence in your surgeon, perhaps it's because if you take off the wrong leg it's a very big deal but a culture of not saying sorry runs through the NHS. Whether its managers fearing legal proceedings or clinicians protecting an image it can result in a reluctance to apologise for any mistake. 

The  ambulance drops an elderly confused patient at the wrong house, a patient spends all day on the ward waiting to go home because some one forgot to collect their medication from the pharmacy, a patient is discharged to a care home and wheeled through the car park wearing only a hospital gown leaving them exposed and embarrassed. In each case a swift, preferably face to face, apology would have been accepted and that would have been an end to the matter instead a complaint became a formal complaint, resulting in a protracted investigation, the intervention of senior management and still the relatives were left feeling that the chief executive's "My trust regrets...." letter was just weasel words.

So I am glad that the General Medical Council has made clear it expects doctors,nurses and midwives to say sorry I just hope their employing Trust supports them.

Blair McPherson  former Director of community services author and blogger