As a membership organisation that represents the medical and dental professions, we are limiting our comments in this consultation to how the proposals will impact on these professions.
MPS is wholly committed to promoting openness in healthcare. MPS supports and advises members to be open with patients when something has gone wrong and encourage them to provide appropriate apologises. We provide regular high quality training and education to members to support this culture in medical and dental practice. Yet we know that many doctors worry about the legal and professional consequences of doing so. We believe that giving protection in legislation, so the use of apologies cannot be used as a means of establishing legal liability, will support and promote a culture of open communication.
When considering an adverse incident, it may be some time before all the facts, and perhaps the reason(s) why and how the event occurred, is fully understood. Until these are established, speculation should be avoided as this is unhelpful for all involved. However, we advise members that this consideration should not hinder a prompt apology from being forthcoming. At the initial contact between the patient and the doctor or dentist involved they may not have answers to all the questions or adequate explanations. Where this is the case, we advise members to say so but commit to endeavour to establish them and report back to the patient.
Apologises are important when things go wrong. Healthcare professionals should feel able to apologise after an adverse incident, in the knowledge that the apology is in itself not an admission of liability, rather a means of expressing sympathy. This is why MPS supports the introduction of such a Bill. Indeed MPS has supported the introduction of similar legislation in England and Wales and most recently, in Scotland. However, we are clear that while supportive of the legislation, this represents only a small part of what is needed to bring about positive and lasting cultural change and to create a truly open learning culture.