An investigation carried out in light of the failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS trust has recommended that patients should be told when treatment provided by the NHS has caused them serious harm. The duty should also extend to a patient’s personal representative if the harm has led to or caused the patient’s death.

The Francis Report, which outlines the findings of the inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, and makes recommendations aimed at preventing a similar scandal arising in the future, has suggested that organisations providing healthcare services to the public should be subject to rigorous duties of openness, transparency and candour.

The report further states that information including the circumstances of the harm should be provided proactively to anybody with an interest in the harm caused or the person affected, and regardless of whether a complaint or a request for information has been made. Appropriate support should also be made available to the patient.

In all, 10 recommendations as to openness, transparency and candour are made. Generally speaking, the recommendations include requirements as to general open conduct, but also propose a duty on healthcare professionals to report any treatment that has caused harm, or which they believe has caused harm, to their employer as soon as possible. The recommendations also suggest that failure to notify the relevant patient should entitle the patient to seek redress – presumably financial (although this is not specified). Furthermore, there is a recommendation to introduce criminal sanctions for healthcare professionals who obstruct others in the performance of their duties with respect to the recommendations, who mislead patients or relatives or make untruthful statements in light of, or regarding, harm caused.

The recommendations have been welcomed by patient groups, who have called for what’s commonly known as the ‘full duty of candour’ for many years. The chief executive of patient safety charity Action Against Medical Accidents (quoted in The Guardian) said:

“All patients welcome the outcome of the review. It is unthinkable that the government will ignore this recommendation… A full duty of candour would probably be the biggest advance in patients’ rights and patient safety since the creation of the NHS. For decades, the NHS has frowned upon cover-ups but has been prepared to tolerate them. This will be an end to that.”

If you have experienced poor care or treatment from an NHS clinic, hospital or other service which you believe has caused you harm, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. The specialist medical negligence solicitors here at Farleys has many years’ experience, and will do everything possible to ensure that you understand the claims process, and feel comfortable with what is happening from start to finish.

If you would like to arrange an initial discussion with one of our medical negligence lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We won’t charge you, but we will provide you with as much advice and guidance as we can from the very start.