Government announces plans for statutory duty of candour

THE government has announced plans for a statutory duty of candour for organisations which provide care and are registered with the Care Quality Commission.

The plans are set out in Patients First and Foremost, which is the government response to the Francis report into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Among other actions set out in the response document are plans for new Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes overseen by an Independent Chief Inspector of Hospitals and Chief Inspector of Social Care. There will also be a review by the NHS Confederation on how to reduce by a third the bureaucratic burden on frontline staff and NHS providers.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: "The health and care system must change. We cannot merely tinker around the edges – we need a radical overhaul with high quality care and compassion at its heart.

"I can pledge that every patient will be treated in a hospital judged on the quality of its care and the experience of its patients. They will be cared for in a place with a culture of zero harm, by highly trained staff with the right values and skills. And if something should go wrong, then those mistakes will be admitted, the patient told about them and steps taken to rectify them with proper accountability."

But there is not complete support for all elements of the plan. The BMA recently warned that that a statutory duty of candour could lead to "defensive practice" among doctors.

In a briefing to inform debate in the Lords the BMA stated: "There are clearly professional duties on doctors to raise and act on concerns about patient safety. A further 'blunt' instrument of legislation could create the wrong sort of culture change, encouraging defensive practice rather than a professional commitment to openness and partnership."