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Duty of candour introduced to reduce avoidable harm

A new ambition to reduce avoidable harm in the NHS by half over the next three years, cut costs and save up to 6,000 lives has been outlined by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. 

Every NHS organisation will be invited to 'Sign up to Safety' and set out publicly their ambitious plans for reducing avoidable harm, such as medication errors, blood clots and bed sores over the next three years. 

The government will also introduce a duty of candour, making openness and honesty the norm across all health and social care organisations. It will mean providers must notify the patient about incidents where 'significant harm' has occurred and provide an apology.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world. I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.

“We now have a once in a generation opportunity to save lives and prevent avoidable harm - which will empower staff and save money that can be re-invested in patient care. Hospitals are already “signing up to safety” as part of this new movement - and I hope all NHS organisations will soon join them.”

Other plans to improve patient safety as part of the package include:

 - Consulting on the threshold for duty of candour to include significant harm, as part of the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) registration requirements (as recommended by the Dalton-Williams review);

 - Recruiting 5,000 safety champions as local change agents, identifying where there is unsafe care and developing solutions to fix it;

Creating a new Safety Action for England (SAFE) team that will consist of senior clinicians, managers and patients with a proven track record in tackling unsafe care. They will ensure that fast, flexible and intensive support is available where it is needed most;

 - Launching a dedicated section of the NHS Choices website in June called 'How Safe is my Hospital'. The online tool will give everyone the ability to compare hospitals in England across a range of patient safety indicators; and

 - Developing new reliable measures of avoidable hospital death rates and severe harm.