New guidance has now been introduced telling NHS doctors, nurses and midwives to apologise personally to patients who have suffered medical blunders.
The individual must offer a prompt heartfelt apology and an explanation to the patient as to why their treatment went wrong. The patient must be informed straight away how the treatment went wrong and what further treatment is required. This applies to all UK doctors, nurses and midwives.
The General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors, and the Nursing and Midwifery Council think that genuine, personal apologies will help patients overcome their anxiety and distress. They believe that saying “I am sorry” is intuitive and more personal.
The purpose of this new guidance is to promote honesty and to make it much harder for medical professionals to keep silent about their wrong doing.
The move was backed by the Royal College of Physicians, which represents the UK’s 30,000 hospital doctors, and the Medical Defence Union. Dr Michael Devlin, its head of professional standards and liaison, said it had been advising doctors for over 50 years to tell the patient and apologise as soon as they became aware of a mishap.