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RCS launches first professional guide on duty of candour

21 Apr 2015

Today, the Royal College of Surgeons of England has launched a best practice guide on how to implement the principles of duty of candour in everyday practice. This is the first guide to outline steps that surgeons should take on an individual level, to ensure that the principles of the duty of candour are at the forefront of everyday work. It reflects the profession’s commitment towards creating greater openness and transparency in the NHS. 

This guide is being released following the coming into force of the Duty of Candour legislation in late November 2014 and its amendments in April 2015. It expands on the principles of the College’s Good Surgical Practice and aims to support surgeons to meet their professional and legal duties.

Every surgeon has a duty to maintain a relationship of trust with their patient. This is founded on honesty and openness. Where an error occurs, Duty of Candour: Guidance for Surgeons and Employers provides a basic step to step handbook to ensure the situation is dealt with effectively and appropriately – and most importantly, minimising patient harm and the chance of the incident happening again.

The guidance document outlines the following considerations for surgeons and their employers:

  • How to nominate an individual to carry out the disclosure discussion
  • The process for apologising and understanding liability
  • Details on timing, location and persons to notify should an error occur
  • How to ensure that the patient is well supported
  • How to facilitate an open dialogue with patients
  • What documentation is required
  • What to do  if the error occurred in a different organisation
  • The support that should be available for surgeons  and surgical teams who have been involved in harm
  • How to report the incident and ensure lessons are learnt
  • Ensuring that there is a culture of openness, focusing on patient safety

Miss Clare Marx, President, Royal College of Surgeons said:

“As surgeons and leaders, patient safety is of paramount concern.

“Should an incident occur we must be open and honest with our patients and their families to minimise potential harm and learn from any mistakes. 

“Our new duty of candour guidance supports the surgical profession to understand the very important role they play, wherever they work ,in encouraging a culture of openness and honesty, which always places the safety and needs of a patient above the reputation of an organisation.”

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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