MDDUS reminds doctors of importance of an apology


For immediate release: Thursday, 24 March 2016

MDDUS is reiterating advice on the importance of apologising to patients when things go wrong.

This reminder comes following last week’s Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report on general practice complaint handling across England in which it reviewed how well GP practices deal with complaints.

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: “The Ombudsman’s report is a timely reminder of both statutory obligations and good practice. GPs should find its combination of practical tips and illuminating case studies both relevant and helpful.

“In our experience, a sincere apology can prevent a patient complaint from escalating and we remind doctors that saying sorry is not an admission of guilt or liability in any potential litigation, nor is it a sign of weakness. In fact, at times it is the right thing to do and a genuine apology may be all that a patient wants.”

Receiving a complaint from a patient is the single most common reason doctors seek advice from MDDUS and accounts for around a fifth of all contacts received.

MDDUS medical adviser Dr Greg Dollman added: “An open and honest approach is the best way to resolve complaints at the earliest possible stage. Doctors should avoid acting defensively and instead show empathy, responding objectively after consideration of the patient’s point of view.

“Where doctors can identify any failings in their care of the patient, then a sincere expression of sorrow or regret should be offered at the earliest opportunity as well as an explanation as to what went wrong.

“Often just listening and understanding a patient’s concerns can defuse a situation. Even in a situation where the doctor does not believe a mistake has been made, it is still possible to adopt a conciliatory tone and express regret that the patient is dissatisfied.”

The PHSO report titled General practice complaint handling across England: a thematic review can be found here 


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK.

For further information on MDDUS go to



This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

For registration, or any login issues, please visit our login page.