Press release

NHS will have to admit to patient safety failures

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New contractual duty for commissioning contracts will drive more open NHS culture.

New rules to toughen transparency in NHS organisations and increase patient confidence have been announced today by the Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter.

From April 2013, the NHS Commissioning Board will be required to include a contractual duty of openness in all commissioning contracts.

This means that NHS organisations, such as hospitals, will be required to tell patients if their safety has been compromised, and ensure that lessons are learned to prevent them from being repeated. Although all NHS organisations are currently expected to be open about mistakes, there is no contractual duty to hold them to account when this does not happen.

Ensuring staff across the NHS are open with patients is crucial to ensuring the highest standards of healthcare are achieved and a key aspect of the Government’s commitment to transparency within the NHS.

Dr Dan Poulter said:

“Patients place great faith in the NHS organisations that treat them, and they in turn have a duty to be honest and open about every aspect of care they deliver. When mistakes are made, we want them acknowledged, patients informed and lessons to be learnt.

“The importance of an open culture cannot be underestimated. We expect that Robert Francis will make further recommendations on the duty of candour when the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry is published, and we are committed to taking whatever further action we think is needed as a result. But we cannot wait - creating this contractual duty of candour now ensures that NHS contracts for the next financial year will champion patients’ rights to basic honesty, as well as safe care.”

The change means that from April 2013, GPs commissioning NHS services will be able to use this contractual mechanism to make sure that whenever they are alerted to an instance where a patient has not been properly informed, that their safety has been compromised and action taken. While the NHS Commissioning Board will need to determine the final details of the contractual requirement, it is likely that if NHS organisations are not open with patients, their Chief Executives could have to apologise in writing to the patient and report the breach to the Care Quality Commission. Strict action plans to prevent the breach happening again could also be required with repeated contractual breaches leading to more stringent action.