Duty of Candour

Sep 1, 2023

The professional duty of candour refers to openness and honesty when things go wrong within health and social care services. It is a professional responsibility to be honest with patients when things go wrong. As a doctor, nurse or midwife, allied health professional or health and social care support worker, it is imperative to be open and honest with your patients/service users, colleagues, and employers.

There are two types of duty of candour.

  1. Professional Candour
  2. Statutory Candour

Professional duty of candour

Clinical healthcare regulators, recognise a common professional duty to be open and honest when things go wrong. The professional duty of candour means that when something goes wrong with patients’ treatment or care and which causes (or could cause) harm or distress, professionals must:

  1. tell the patient (or their representative) when something has gone wrong
  2. apologise to the patient that this has happened
  3. offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right, if that is possible, and
  4. explain fully to the patient the short- and long-term effects of what has happened.

Statutory duty of candour: England

Since April 2015, healthcare providers registered with CQC also have a statutory duty of candour, required and enforceable by law. The obligations associated with the statutory duty of candour are contained in regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 (as amended). It applies regardless of whether a complaint has been made or a question asked about it. The key principles are:

to act in an open and transparent way in relation to care provided to patients. This means that an open and honest culture must exist throughout an organisation.

As soon as is reasonably practicable after becoming aware of a notifiable patient safety incident, the organisation must tell the patient (or their representative) about it in person.

The organisation has to give the patient a full explanation of what is known at the time, including what further enquiries will be carried out.

Organisations must also provide an apology and keep a written record of the notification to the patient. Failure to make that notification may amount to a criminal offence.

Scottish law

The statutory duty of candour in Scottish law is governed by the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine and Care etc)(Scotland) Act 2016 and the Duty of Candour Procedure (Scotland) Regulations 2018.

The Duty of Candour Policy sits alongside your Complaints Policy and if/when you have a complaint make sure that you reflect and consider whether your complaint response invokes the Duty of Candour


Health and Social Care Act Regulation 20 Duty of Candour

NMC Professional Duty Of Candour

CQC Regulation 20 Duty of Candour

CQC Updated Guidance for Providers April 2021 Duty of Candour

NHS Professionals

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