Duty of candour guidance for dentists

DENTISTS must be open and honest with patients when things go wrong and apologise as soon as possible, according to new draft guidance from the General Dental Council.

The regulator has launched a consultation seeking views on its new duty of candour guidelines. It follows Sir Robert Francis’ report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which emphasised the importance of openness and transparency in healthcare.

The GDC was one of eight organisations to sign a joint statement in October 2014 which outlined The professional duty of candour, but this new draft document offers more detailed guidance.

It underlines the importance of a thorough discussion with patients before beginning treatment, ensuring they have enough information to make their decision.

If something does go wrong, dentists will be expected to tell the patient; apologise; offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right (if possible); and explain fully the short and long term effects of what has happened.

A personalised apology should also be offered "as soon as possible" after a patient suffers harm or distress, the guidance states, adding: "Apologising to the patient is not the same as admitting legal liability for what happened. You should not withhold an apology because you think that it might cause problems later."

Under the new guidance, dental managers and employers will have to encourage a culture of openness and honesty amongst staff, ensuring procedures are in place for staff to raise concerns.

The GDC is asking healthcare professionals and the public "whether it’s got the draft guidance right". The consultation runs until December 18, with more information available on the GDC website.