Will the Duty of Candour help Clinical Negligence victims?

 In a non-clinical accident, an injured person will usually know enough about their accident so that they can take specialised legal advice on pursuing a claim for rehabilitation and just compensation.  This contrasts with clinical negligence accidents, when the injured patient may not even be told that they have been the possible victim of clinical negligence. The Government’s White Paper “Liberating the NHS” seeks to redress this issue with a proposed duty of candour.

Professional Duty

Whilst at the moment doctors have a professional duty to be frank with patients, this is unenforceable by patients and for example, does not avoid a doctor who when admitting to an error, only telling the victim of “recognised complications.”  Furthermore this professional duty does not apply to non-clinical staff such as managers and in particular to the staff who handle patients’ complaints.

Duty of Candour

Some doctors resist a duty of candour even though it was recommended by the then Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, in his report Making Amends in 2003.  They argue that the present NHS guidance on openness is sufficient, even though this also is unenforceable and obviously does not apply to private healthcare providers.  They argue that an apology would be rendered meaningless, if issued for each of the estimated ½ million patients involved in a clinical safety incident in England every year.  They argue that patients would only feel their doctor was apologising because they were being forced to do so.  They even argue that changing the law would not alter the current culture.

Head Injury UK: Here to help you

Head Injury UK supports any step which ensures patients who have been victims of likely sub-standard medical treatment are fully informed.  In many cases a simple apology is all the patient will want, but in cases of serious injury such as brain injury, then that patient will be on an equal footing with people not injured by medical professionals because they will then have enough information to take expert legal advice on making a clinical negligence claim.  If you, or anyone you know has suffered brain injury as a result of clinical negligence please contact Clare Langford who will help you.

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