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Duty of candour – Scotland

21 March 2018
A new duty of candour for all health, care and social work services came into effect in Scotland on 1 April 2018. It places an expectation on organisations to be open, honest and supportive when there is an unexpected or unintended incident resulting in death or harm.

The new duty is part of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on 6 April 2016. 

Here are some top tips and advice for complying with the new duty of candour.

A new duty of candour procedure outlines what actions must be taken by a responsible person, in line with regulations created by the Scottish Government. The key stages of the procedure include:

  • Notify the person affected (or family/relative where appropriate)
  • Provide an apology
  • Carry out a review into the circumstances leading to the incident
  • Offer and arrange a meeting with the person affected and/or their family, where appropriate
  • Provide the person affected with an account of the incident
  • Provide information about further steps taken
  • Make available, or provide information about, support to persons affected by the incident
  • Prepare and publish an annual report on the duty of candour.
Your reporting should follow the various steps within the duty of candour procedure, covering what you have learnt from the review and how the learning has been shared.

An open and honest apology must be provided at the outset, to reassure an individual and/or their family. Such an apology does not amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty.

At Medical Protection we have long advised doctors that an appropriate apology is not an admission of liability; rather, it is an acknowledgment that something has gone wrong and a way of expressing empathy. We also provide advice, education and practical tools to help with communication during difficult and highly emotive conversations, as we know too well that things aren’t always straightforward in practice.

Responsibility for the apology lies with the responsible person, which is the organisation delivering the service. Each organisation will have individuals with delegated responsibility for ensuring that such organisational duties are met, while also allowing for individual apologies. It is worth checking within your organisation for any guidelines you can use.

A series of factsheets and e-learning on the new duty of candour is also available from NHS Education for Scotland’s Knowledge Network.
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