When things go wrong - The professional duty of candour

This guidance, developed in collaboration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, sets out what is expected of every nurse, midwife and doctor practising in the UK when something goes wrong.

It builds on advice in Good medical practice and the NMC's code which says that doctors, nurses and midwives have a professional duty to be open and honest with patients when things go wrong and the patient suffers harm or distress as a consequence. It also says that doctors, nurses and midwives should always report when mistakes are made that have compromised – or could have compromised – patient safety.

The guidance also builds on advice in Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety which clearly sets out managers’ responsibility to ensure there are systems in place to allow concerns to be raised and incidents investigated, and that staff who raise a concern are protected from unfair criticism or action.

There is a list of all the paragraphs in GMP and explanatory guidance which are related to this guidance in Appendix 1.

The guidance says that doctors, nurses and midwives should:

  • speak to a patient, or those close to them, as soon as possible after they realise something has gone wrong with their care
  • apologise to the patient, explaining what happened, what can be done if they have suffered harm and what will be done to prevent someone else being harmed in the future
  • report errors at an early stage so that lessons can be learned quickly, and patients are protected from harm in the future.

Doctors must follow all our guidance: serious or persistent failure to do so will put their registration at risk.

Read the guidance

The guidance in practice: case studies