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Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour (GMC guideline)
  1. Hannah Jacob1,
  2. Joseph Raine2
  1. 1UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Whittington Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joseph Raine, Department of Paediatrics, Whittington Hospital, Magdala Avenue, London N19 5NF, UK; joseph.raine{at}

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Information about current guideline

In June 2015, the General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) jointly published the guidance Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour.1 This guidance was developed in response to the Francis report about the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.2 It elaborates on the joint statement from eight regulators of healthcare professionals in the UK about the professional responsibility of all healthcare professionals to be honest with patients when things go wrong.3

The guidance builds on the principles set out by the GMC in Good Medical Practice and by the NMC in The Code: Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses and Midwives.4 ,5 It is guidance for individuals meaning that even if you are not the person reporting adverse incidents and speaking to patients if things go wrong, you must make sure that someone in the team has taken responsibility for this and support them as needed.

This guidance applies to all doctors registered with the GMC across the UK. In addition, there is now a statutory duty of candour, meaning a legal obligation, for NHS organisations within England as well as independent health and social care providers. This follows the Health and Social Care Act, which came into force in November 2014. Different laws apply in other parts of the UK.

When does the duty of candour apply?

The Francis report is explicit that any patient harmed by the provision of a healthcare service is informed of the fact and offered an appropriate remedy, regardless of whether a complaint has been made or a question asked about it. The statutory duty of candour applies when a patient has been subjected to moderate harm or worse, as a result of an error. Cases where an error has led to severe harm or …

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  • Contributors HJ drafted the initial manuscript. JR provided expert opinion on the initial draft. Both authors have approved the final version.

  • Funding HJ is an Academic Clinical Fellow funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.