Following the scandal in Mid-Staffordshire Hospital the NHS decided to impose a ‘duty of candour’ on hospitals. This was supposed to ensure that any mistakes made in the provision of treatment were admitted to the patients involved.
There have been many problems with the duty of candour, however. In practice it has proved difficult to implement and there have been reports of staff members being bullied and harassed as a result of admitting to mistakes they have made. This is contrary to the aim of the duty, which was to ensure a culture of openness with patients.
In practice, our clinical negligence team receives countless enquiries from members of the public who have complained about mistakes made in the provision of their treatment, only to be met by question dodging and cagey responses from their treatment providers.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt has therefore decided to extend the duty of candour to cover not just the hospitals but now the staff members themselves. It remains to be seen whether this will change the problems that have been encountered so far with the duty of candour.
Should a culture of openness truly result from this new duty that can only be a good thing. Many patients who have suffered injury due to mistakes have been ignored or misled about what has happened to them. For that reason a number of clinical negligence claims are brought to try and establish what went wrong with treatment, rather than simply for compensation.
If the duty of candour works as hoped disputes between treatment providers and patients should be resolved more quickly and allow any compensation to be paid to a victim of negligence sooner. This will mean that there are less costs to pay and victims have quicker access to justice. It may also mean fewer claims, a number of claimants only pursue litigation because they have encountered a complete lack of accountability from their treatment providers.
It remains to be seen if the duty of candour will truly be embraced but if it is it should ensure quicker justice for those injured as a result of negligence and ensure that negligence claims are brought for their intended reason; to attempt to restore victims of negligence to the position they would have been in if the negligence had not occurred.
If you think you have been the victim of negligence and wish to discuss your options in making a complaint or a claim, contact one of our expert team on: