View from the AOP: Duty of candour concerns
One of the main take home messages from the Francis Inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire hospital was that many of the appalling instances of poor patient care were a direct consequence of a behavioural culture. Healthcare professionals were not encouraged to be transparent with patients about clinical mistakes.
In July 2014, eight healthcare professional regulators including the GOC released a joint statement confirming they would each be working on a professional duty of candour for their respective registrants.
The GOC consulted widely on its draft guidance released in June 2016. The AOP had some concerns about the draft, namely that the guidance appeared too onerous on registrants and lacked a sense of proportionality.
AOP/ABDO advised the guidance should be better designed for the situations in optical practice and use language that is appropriate. We also argued that individual registrants should be provided with the right level of support by employers and the GOC should introduce standards for businesses.
While we welcome the GOC’s amendments, including removing all mention of the word “treatment”, we do not think that the revised guidance addresses all of our concerns.
The GOC was not forthcoming with sufficient examples of when a registrant would need to comply with the guidance. Despite this, it does helpfully clarify that being candid is not the same as admitting liability.
After all, offering professional candour can be a daunting prospect and those working in healthcare need to feel safe to be open with their patients. It is important to acknowledge, as the guidance does, that errors often relate to organisational systems that are mainly the responsibility of businesses rather than individuals.