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CommunicationDec 6, 2023

Ombudsman looks forward to contributing to the government's review of the 'duty of candour'

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens has welcomed today’s announcement (6 December) that the Department of Health and Social Care is to conduct a review into the duty of candour.

Mr Behrens said: ‘I have long called for closer openness and transparency when things go wrong in the NHS. The duty of candour was intended to reinforce this. However, a decade after its introduction, our Broken Trust report into avoidable deaths in the NHS found that the duty is not always implemented as it should be and called for a full review to assess its effectiveness.

‘I welcome this announcement and the opportunity to contribute the expertise and evidence from my office.'

Mr Behrens added: ‘Despite it being a statutory duty to be open and honest when things go wrong with a patient’s care, I know from the cases we investigate that this doesn’t always happen. Patients and their families deserve better.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
People have a right to openness and transparency from their health or care provider

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The review will look at the operation and enforcement of the existing duty, with a focus on delivering recommendations that can improve its application [Maria Caulfield]

Health minister Maria Caulfield, who is responsible for mental health and the women’s health strategy, said the review will formally commence early in the new year.

‘The duty of candour is about people’s right to openness and transparency from their health or care provider. It means that when something goes wrong during the provision of health and care services, patients and their families have a right to receive explanations for what happened as soon as possible and a meaningful apology.'

Ms Caulfield added: ‘Since its introduction, there has been variation in how the duty has been applied in some settings. To that effect, the review will look at the operation and enforcement of the existing duty, with a focus on delivering recommendations that can improve its application.'

The duty of candour is set out in regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. It has been in place for NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts since 2014 and for all other providers regulated by the Care Quality Commission since 2015.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman provides an independent and impartial complaint handling service for complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments.

Author: Edited by Ian A McMillan
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