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Apologise to patients directly, guidance advises

Apologise and explain mistakes to patients face-to-face, joint General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing Medical Council (NMC) guidance released today says.

All nurses, midwives and doctors practising in the UK will be expected to follow the guidance, which aims to create a more open, transparent NHS culture and help patients understand what to expect from health professionals.

If something has gone wrong with a patient's care nurses will need to speak to the patient, or someone close to them, and apologise, explain what happened, what can be done if they have suffered harm, and what will be done to prevent this happening again in the future.

Jackie Smith, chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said: “We can't stop mistakes from happening entirely and we recognise that sometimes things go wrong. The test is how individuals and organisations respond to those instances, and the culture they build as a result.”

Nurses and health professionals will need to report errors early and not try to prevent colleagues or former colleagues from raising concerns about patient safety.

In turn, managers must ensure that anyone who raises concerns are protected from unfair criticism, detriment or dismissal.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: “We also want to send out a clear message to employers and clinical leaders - none of this will work without an open and honest learning culture, in which staff feel empowered to admit mistakes and raise concerns.”