For most clients who are injured as a result of medical injury, the search for answers is often more important than any assessment of compensation value. Over my 18 years of dealing with medical negligence claims, I have often found that the reluctance of medical practitioners to be candid about mistakes, has added to a patients upset and worry, despite the existing ethical requirements of the doctors to let patients know what has gone wrong.
I welcome the new contractual duty of candour and the announcement by the Jeremy Hunt, to invite each NHS organisation to “sign up to safety” and publicly set out their strategies for reducing avoidable harm. Although the new duty of candour only applies to injuries for moderate or severe harm or death, this is a significant change in culture and processes, which require all NHS organisation to have systems in place for “incident” reporting. As a consequence, and following the lessons of mid Staffs, encouraging a culture of transparency, not only allows problems to be identified early but a strong culture of reporting gives patients confidence in the system.
Patients want a safe and accountable NHS. When tragically mistakes happen, and they do, giving people information alleviates worry and may even in some cases avoid the need for litigation. Where litigation is required, often to help an injured person rebuild their lives, information provided at early stage to an injured person or their family, may help reduce the costs incurred in clinical negligence proceedings.
Any change which helps save lives and improves safety, has to be welcomed.