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Hunt: Nurses to apologise for 'care failings'

Doctors and nurses will be required to apologise for any care failings to end a “culture of defensiveness”, the Health Secretary has claimed. 

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for health professionals to be more “open and honest” when things go wrong in a bid to win back patient trust in the NHS. 

Guidance has been sent to every hospital in England and Wales which makes clear that “saying sorry is the right thing to do” whenever there has been a failure of care. 

Hunt said: “Sadly under the last government a close and defensive culture developed in parts of the NHS. We are transforming this culture through a new transparency drive in our hospitals. 

Speaking to the Telegraph he said: “We want to see an open NHS culture that focuses on safety and learns when things go wrong. Saying sorry and supporting patients and their families when they have experienced harm is a really important part of this.” 

The NHS Litigation Authority has clarified that saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability. 

Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the organisation said: “Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We actively support organisations being open, transparent and candid with their patients. We have seen some cases where that hasn't happened in the NHS. It's important that we create and support the right culture.” 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “The NHS Litigation Authority is right to remind NHS staff that it is ok to say sorry, however in too many trusts there is an organisational culture which makes staff feel like they will not be supported when they do this.

“The RCN is producing guidance for nursing staff to help deal with complaints sensitively and thoroughly. However this can only happen when local managers and leaders create an environment where staff feel confident about their ability and authority to deal with the concerns of patients.

“The vast majority of NHS staff aim to provide the best possible care to every patient and when this does not happen they naturally want to apologise and learn from the experience. We now need leadership across the NHS to ensure that patients and relatives feel their concerns are taken seriously when things go wrong.”