What is the professional duty of candour?

  1. All healthcare professionals have a professional duty of candour — this is a professional responsibility to be open, honest and transparent with patients when things go wrong.
  2. This professional duty of candour was agreed in October 2014 in a joint statement from eight regulators of healthcare professionals in the UK. This was in response to findings and recommendations from both the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (the Francis Inquiry) into poor patient care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 and the UK Government’s response to this Inquiry: Hard Truths: The Journey to Putting Patients First published in January 2014.
  3. The General Optical Council’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (standard 19) and Standards for Optical Students (standard 18) reflect this professional duty of candour.

Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians:

19. Be candid when things have gone wrong.

19.1 Be open and honest with your patients when you have identified that things have gone wrong with their treatment or care which has resulted in them suffering harm or distress or where there may be implications for future patient care. You must:

19.1.1 Tell the patient or, where appropriate, the patient’s advocate, carer or family that something has gone wrong.

19.1.2 Offer an apology.

19.1.3 Offer appropriate remedy or support to put matters right (if possible).

19.1.4 Explain fully and promptly what has happened and the likely short-term and long-term effects.

19.1.5 Outline what you will do, where possible, to prevent reoccurrence and improve future patient care.

19.2 Be open and honest with your colleagues, employers and relevant organisations, and take part in reviews and investigations when requested and with the General Optical Council, raising concerns where appropriate. Support and encourage your colleagues to be open and honest, and do not stop someone from raising concerns.

19.3 Ensure that when things go wrong, you take account of your obligations to reflect and improve your practice as outlined in standard 5.

  1. Being candid should not be misunderstood as admitting liability or wrong doing. An apology or other step taken in accordance with this guidance does not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or a breach of statutory duty. The action taken, whether on behalf of yourself, your employer or another healthcare colleague is the right thing to do for the patient.
  2. Being candid should not be confused with handling complaints. This guidance on candour applies whether or not a complaint has been made or a concern raised.
  3. This professional duty of candour should not be confused with the contractual duty of candour or the statutory duty of candour. These are separate duties that apply to providers who have a contract to provide NHS care and organisations regulated by the Care Quality Commission. These duties are unlikely to apply to you as an individual.
  4. This guidance should also not be confused with the GOC’s policy on Raising Concerns with the GOC (whistle blowing). It focuses on the conversation required with the patient when something has gone wrong. You will need to consider separately whether there is a requirement to take any further action in relation to raising concerns.