The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has updated its guidance on the duty of candour to give a ‘more specific explanation’ of what is defined as a notifiable safety incident.
The updates also make clear that the apology required to fulfil the duty ‘does not mean accepting liability’ and will not affect a provider’s indemnity cover, CQC said.
The statutory duty (Regulation 20) was introduced in 2014 following the Mid Staffordshire scandal and requires all health and social care providers to be open and transparent with people using service and their families in relation to their treatment and care.
In the updated guidance, the CQC said that a notifiable safety incident must have been ‘unintended or unexpected’, must have occurred during the provision of a regulated activity, and must be an incident which – in the reasonable opinion of a healthcare professional – has or might result in ‘death, or severe or moderate harm to the person receiving care’.
Under the guidance, providers must also take three actions when an incident occurs – inform the people affected, offer reasonable support, and provide truthful information and a timely apology.
The updated guidance also provides examples covering a range of scenarios, CQC said.
Ted Baker, CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: ‘The duty of candour is a crucial part of a positive, open and safe culture. People using any type of health or social care service have a right to be informed about all elements of their care and treatment – andall providers have a responsibility to be open and honest with those in their care.
‘Where the duty of candour is not being carried out properly, there can often be wider concerns around a lack of transparency, staff not feeling able to speak up and mistakes not being learned from.’
He added that ‘good progress’ has been made by many providers, but more needs to be done ‘to ensure that the culture of openness is fully embedded’.
‘CQC will keep its focus on this essential element of a safe culture going forward and we have updated the guidance for providers to help them drive further improvements,’ he said.
Helen Vernon, chief executive of NHS Resolution, said that the organisation – which manages clinical negligence claims against the NHS – ‘fully supports’ the updated guidance.
NHS Resolution’s own guidance also confirms that providing a timely apology ‘is not an admission of liability, is always the right thing to do and is the first step to learning from what happened’, Ms Vernon added.